The Draft National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) 2015 proposes to boost regional connectivity in the country through the implementation of a Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS). The RCS is aimed at making financially unviable, but economically important flights on certain regional routes a reality.
But for this to come true, many moves need to be made. The Ministry claims that there are 476 airstrips / aerodromes / airports in the country. Question is, how many of them are worthy of immediate operation? Today, airlines operate into and out of just 76 airports. What is the condition of the remainder airports?
The Ministry, in its bid to promote regional connectivity, must be specific about what it will fund. We touch upon this, and also try to do the numbers about how much money the Ministry may be able to raise, and with that money, how many regional aircraft may be operated. And which aircraft types are the most likely ones for the near term and the long term.
The RCS will spell the boom of regional aviation in India, only if implemented right. But it will also tax regular airlines, and not offer any viability gap funding for these airlines. There are challenges, and there are opportunities. To learn more, please click here.
Alliance Air, which is branded as Air India Regional, received its 5th brand new ATR 72-600 from Toulouse. The aircraft, registered VT-AIW, joins the fleet of four other ATR 72-600s, registered VT-AII, VT-AIT, VT-AIU and VT-AIV. Al five aircraft are leased from Singapore based leasing company Avation.
The ATR 72-600s, which employ an all new cockpit avionics based on technology used on the Airbus A380, is to replace the aging fleet of four ATR 42-320s. The ATR 42-320s in Alliance air are fitted with 48 seats, while the ATR 72-600s are fitted with 70 seats. The older ATRs sport a four bladed propeller, which made the aircraft noisier than the present six-bladed propellers. Passive noise reduction techniques make the present -600’s cabin a lot more pleasant than the older ATRs’.
With the arrival of VT-AIW, which was ferried Toulouse (TLS) – Heraklion (HER) – Ankara (ESB) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Delhi (DEL), the total count of active ATR 72s in India (-500 & -600) has gone upto 27, split as 15 ATR 72-500 (Jet AIrways) + 3 ATR 72-600 (Jet AIrways) + 5 ATR 72-600 (Air India Regional / Alliance Air) + 2 ATR 72-500 (Air Pegasus) + 2 ATR 72-500 (TruJet). One ATR 72-500 is undergoing painting at Hosur, destined for Air Pegaus.
India totally has 51 70-80 seat turboprops in service, including 14 Bombardier Q400s of SpiceJet. The smaller ATR 42s, aged on average 21+ years, will soon be phased out.
Air India Regional / Alliance Air flies the longest turboprop route in the country, between Delhi and Rajkot, over 505 nautical miles, a flight that takes 2:30 hours block time, almost the same block time an Airbus or Boeing mainline narrowbody jet (A320 & 737 family) takes to fly double the distance. Due to insufficient crew, and to align with the schedules of the network of its parent Air India, the ATRs at Alliance Air are not utilised as much as the aircraft can be. Average present utilisation of the aircraft at the airline is close to 6 hours per aircraft per day. The aircraft operate only four flights a day, while Jet Airways operates upto 13 hours per aircraft per day and 9 flights per aircraft per day. (maximum figures).
Of the presently four operational ATR 72-600s with Alliance Air, three are based at Delhi, and operate flights to Kullu, Dharamshala, Allahabad, Dehradun, Rajkot and Pantnagar. One is based at Hyderabad, and operates flights to Vijayawada and Tirupati, offering competition to TruJet and Air Costa.
An ATR 72 is best suited for short (distance) and thin (low demand) routes of upto 350 nautical miles. Beyond this, a regional jet generally becomes a more viable and economical option. The shortest ATR 72 sector in India is operated by Jet Airways between Porbandar and Diu, a flight that lasts just 45 minutes block time over a distance of 90 nautical miles (166km). The average ATR 72 city pair distance in India is 223 nautical miles (413 km), while the average domestic flight distance across all domestic flights of all carriers on all aircraft in India is 455NM (843 km).
70-80 seat turboprops serve as good feeder aircraft to mainline aircraft, enabling deeper and true regional penetration in India, especially since many airfields and city pairs in India, today, are operationally and commercially unviable for regional and mainline jets. Many runways are too short for regional and mainline jets, and many cities are too underdeveloped to viably support larger aircraft.
The maps below show the pan-India coverage that turboprops can achieve by being based out of five metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and by flying a maximum distance of 400NM. Range circles are 300NM and 400NM radius, as mentioned.
Over the next 20 years, a demand for 2,500 turboprops is anticipated, of which close to 50% may be based at Asia.
Header image does not represent VT-AIW, but VT-AII.
Air India Regional, better known as Alliance Air, received its first ATR 72-600 at Toulouse. The ATR 72,600 with MSN 1197 is registered VT-AII, and becomes the first ATR 72 for Air India and the fourth ATR 72-600 after VT-JCX/Y/Z that fly for Jet Airways. The aircraft, leased from Singapore-based leasing firm Avation, is the first out of five that the airline will receive until July 2015.
Air India Regional presently has about four ATR 42-320s (see photo on the left), which are all about 20 years old. The brand new and longer fuselage ATR 72-600 brings to Air India’s passengers a leap in cabin noise and comfort. The -320s have a four bladed propeller, while the -500s and -600s have a six bladed propeller.
The new ATR 72-600 is configured with 70 seats, compared to 48 that are fitted in the shorter ATR 42. This will allow Air India to either stimulate the markets which it caters to with this aircraft, or cater to those that have grown beyond 50 seats.
Mr. Rohit Nandan, Chairman, Alliance Air stated that “We are pleased to introduce into our fleet an aircraft which has clearly become the new reference among all regional planes. The ATRs have proven for years their reliability and their ability to bring our passengers to every destination of our regional network".
Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR Chief Executive Officer, said that “We have partnered with Alliance Air for more than 10 years, and we are honored by this new proof of confidence in the ATR aircraft family. The new ATR 72-600 perfectly fit with the aim of the airline to progressively renew their fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft, while adding seat-capacity into their main routes."
According to ATR, the 72-600 has a maximum take-off weight of 23,000kg, and can carry a max payload of 7,500kg over 900NM.
Air India regional joins Jet Airways and Air Pegasus as operators of the ATR 72. Turbo Megha is soon expected to become the 4th operator.
Though not officially acknowledged by the airline, SpiceJet has reportedly placed an order for 42 Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft. Considering the airline’s fleet to be comprised mostly of Boeing 737-800s, the order may very well be entirely made of Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is expected to enter service in the third quarter of 2017, almost 4 years from now. With already 1,763 orders for the 737 MAX airplanes, it may be easily close to 2-3 years after the 737 MAX 8 enters service that SpiceJet receives its first 737 MAX, assuming that Boeing will up the production rate of the 737 jets to 47 a month, or higher to 60, from the present 42.
SpiceJet is now one of 298 yet “Unidentified” Customers who have ordered 737 MAX airplanes. The airline is yet to receive 18 Boeing 737-800 airplanes from the US airplane manufacturer. In 2013, SpiceJet received 10 Boeing 737NG airplanes, its highest ever in a calendar year.
This order that speaks of an airline poised for growth 5 years down the road, is a precursor to “something” big in the airline. Note the 737NG delivery trend for SpcieJet, below, and you’ll notice that 2013 was a very happening year, for an airline about to make a big announcement in 2014: the news of the much awaited investor.
Quarters are Calendar Quarters, not Financial Quarters.
ATR has proved in recent years to be successful in South East Asia, a market which experiences strong development of its regional networks. Since 2005, ATR has sold over 170 new firm aircraft to South East Asian carriers, accounting for 98% of all regional aircraft with up to 90 seats sold in the region during this period.
Garuda Indonesia, the flag carrier of Indonesia, is expanding its fleet with a firm commitment to lease 25 ATR 72-600s, with options for 10 more, from Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC), based in Billund, Denmark. NAC, in June 2013, placed an order for 90 ATR aircraft, including ATR 42-600s. With this, the leasing company’s ATR fleet grows to 150 aircraft. Garuda Indonesia joins Indonesian Lion Air’s subsidiary, Wings Air, as an ATR operator. Wings Air is ATR’s largest customer for the ATR 72s. Together with Garuda/s ATR 72s, Indonesia alone will may have more than 100 ATR 72 aircraft in the next two years. Some of these ATRs make their way to Lion Group’s Malindo.
Malaysia Airlines and ATR inked a deal in late 2012 for the purchase of a total of 36 ATR 72-600s (20 firm orders plus 16 options) to be operated by the airline’s regional subsidiaries, MASwings and Firefly. The two subsidiaries have started receiving their ATR 72-600 aircraft.
Myannmar’s Air KBZ, which already operated ATR 72-500s, received two ATR 72-600s this year.
ATR opened its Flight Training Centre at Singapore on the 14th of December 2013. With more than 250 ATR aircraft flying in the Asia-Pacific region, with 50 operators, it was only prudent to bring a training centre closer to a region of high significance.
Just months after the training centre was opened, the simulator is running at full capacity. With the encouraging response, ATR has chosen to open another training center, this time in partnership with an ATR operator, Avianca, in Bogota.
ATR penetrated Japan with Link, an operator that plans to start operations by the end of 2013. Link will acquire three ATR 72-600s, becoming the first carrier in Japan to operate ATR aircraft.
The 50th edition of the Paris Air Show was the best in the history of the Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR. Over the course of the week, the turboprop aircraft manufacturer announced orders for 173 planes, including 83 firm orders at the air show. The order book also ensures ATR’s production until the end of 2016.
Maintenance Expansion: India.
As part of the steadily planned expansion of the ATR MRO Network, ATR, on 11th October, called for tenders to initiate the selection process of an ATR MRO Network member in India to cover the geographical region.
Shifting Markets & Support.
During the show, ATR announced orders from markets which have proved among the most promising in recent years: the aircraft leasing companies and Latin America. This has prompted ATR to shift its office in North America. “Across Latin and South America, we are seeing a big rise in the sheer number of ATRs in service, as we win over new operators and current clients increase the number of turboprops in their fleets. So it makes sense for us to relocate our North America office to Miami to be close to all our customers across the whole of the Americas”, says Filippo Bagnato, Chief Executive Officer, ATR.
Be it a -72 or a -42, the journey of the aircraft and its parts, in its “gestation period” is very interesting. With demand for the ATR 72 rising sharply, due to its apparent great market value, availability of rated crew, and its operating economics, it is interesting how the assembly line is well coordinated, despite the inherent complexities involved with an assembly process spread over many countries. This is now being optimised by ATR to target 72 airplanes a year, to meet the rising demand for the world’s most popular turboprop. Click on the image below to enjoy the full size image, with readable text.
This image was published by ATR, when celebrating the delivery of its 1000th aircraft, in the May of 2012.