Turboprop airliner manufacturer ATR has obtained certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the ATR 72-600, the latest member of its regional-aircraft family.
A prerequisite for the aircraft’s entry into service, the certification by EASA (the aviation-safety authority responsible for certificating all aircraft managed in its member countries) covers the new equipment on the aircraft, and represents a successful conclusion to a series of ground and flight tests conducted on the ATR 72-600 prototype. Flight testing on the aircraft began in the summer of 2009.
This series of tests validated the proper functioning of the new systems and equipment installed on the aircraft, such as its new avionics: a new glass cockpit with five liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens; new communications, navigation, monitoring, flight management (FMS), automatic pilot and alert management systems; and a new maintenance and aircraft-health protection computer system.
Filippo Bagnato, CEO of ATR, said in a statement that he was “…very proud to see that the ATR 72-600 is now on the brink of entering into service and allowing airlines to discover its many advantages. Development of the new 600-series ATRs is based on our commitment to continue developing our line of aircraft in order to better meet the needs of regional airlines, in terms of operating costs as well as airworthiness and passenger comfort.”
Bagnato added: “The ATR ‘-600’, now the most advanced regional aircraft on the market, features new avionics, developed in partnership with Thales, which make flight management even simpler thanks to its state-of-the-art technology. It also features a new cabin, designed by Giugiaro, with new, even more comfortable seats which are also lighter-weight, and completely redesigned baggage stows offering more storage space for passengers. The new ATR ‘-600’s’ entry into service will soon open up new commercial prospects for us.”
The test campaign was mainly conducted in Toulouse, although the aircraft also traveled to Tarbes and Agen in France, Lugano in Switzerland) and Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris for tests.
While the aircraft was based at Tarbes and Agen, ATR was able to test and verify the functioning of its automatic-pilot system, notably in high wind conditions. At mountain-surrounded Lugano, ATR tested the ATR 72-600’s ability to handle steep landing approaches, with Lugano-Agno Airport approaches requiring a glideslope angle of 6.65 degrees.
At Charles de Gaulle Airport, ATR checked the ATR 72-600’s navigation-management systems (radio, Short Message Service, GPS, Required Navigation Performance) in traffic conditions characteristic of a busy major airport.
Since launching the new ATR 42-600 and ATR 72-600 program in October 2007, ATR has received orders for a total of 141 aircraft of the new series. Delivery of the first ATR 72-600s will begin this summer. Royal Air Maroc, which has ordered four ATR 72-600s and two ATR 42-600s, will be the first operator to take delivery of an ATR 72-600.
Flight-testing of the ATR 42-600 is underway and ATR says the aircraft’s certification program will benefit from its close similarity to the ATR 72-600 (fuselage, engines, avionics). Certification of the ATR 42-600 is expected at the end of the year.
The ATR 72-600 seats from 68 to 74 in typical one-class configuration. It is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines, each generating 2,750 shaft horsepower at mximum take-off power. The aircraft has a maximum gross take-off weight of 23,000kg (50,600lb) and a maximum payload of 7,500kg (16,500lb). The ATR 72-600’s maximum range with full passenger load is 899 nautical miles (1,665 kilometers).
Founded in 1981 as a joint venture between then-Aérospatiale and Aeritalia (now respectively subsumed within EADS and Alenia Aeronautica), Toulouse-based ATR manufactures 50-to-74-seat regional turboprop aircraft market. Since the start of the program, ATR has sold more than 1,100 aircraft, which are operated by 175 airlines in 94 countries. ATR aircraft have accumulated more than 20 million flight hours.