Europe’s ATR wins China approval for 42-600 turboprop plane – Reuters

Nov 8 (Reuters) – China has certified the ATR 42-600 regional turboprop, Franco-Italian planemaker ATR said on Tuesday in a long-awaited announcement coinciding with the start of the Zhuhai Airshow.

The decision by Chinese regulator CAAC will allow ATR to re-enter the Chinese market with a firm order from an undisclosed customer for three of the latest electronic-cockpit model of its short-haul regional planes, it said in a statement.

The announcement comes two days after the crash of an earlier version operated by Tanzania’s Precision Air. The same airline was also the first to use the upgraded ATR 42-600 in 2012.

Co-owned by Airbus (AIR.PA) and Leonardo (LDOF.MI), ATR has long battled to gain a viable foothold in China, with experts blaming an official drive towards larger aircraft.

ATR says regional aircraft with fewer than 100 seats represent only 2.5% of the Chinese fleet, compared with a worldwide average of 25%.

The France-based company had a small presence with only five 72-500 aircraft in the remote Xinjiang region until about 2010, but since then has been absent from the world’s largest domestic market.

It sees demand for 2,450 regional turboprops over the next 20 years, including 280 in China, outpacing North America.

Experts say turboprop planes are useful for opening short routes and are cost-efficient especially when oil prices are high.

The newly certified European model faces competition from China’s Xian MA600 and the development of a larger MA700, the future of which has been cast into doubt after Canada denied an export permit for its Pratt & Whitney Canada engines.

After months of speculation, U.S. aviation publication The Air Current last month reported that a Chinese manufacturer’s journal had disclosed that the MA700 had staged a maiden flight, only for the online item to be removed.

Xian Aircraft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also on the drawing board is a potential turboprop plane from Brazil’s Embraer (EMBR3.SA), which projects total demand of 2,280 turboprops worldwide in the next 20 years.

It has been drawn to a market dominated by ATR after the De Havilland Canada Dash 8 suspended production owing to weak demand.

Reporting by Tim Hepher and Sophie Yu
Editing by Himani Sarkar and David Goodman

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