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 Pegasus, which started operations mid April and now has a fleet of 2 ATR 72-500s, is impacted by shortage of crew to fly its aircraft.
The Bangalore based airline, which in August announced a second frequency to Hubli, to allow for a day return for passengers from either city, has not yet operated the morning 7:05 Hubli flight since 20th August 2015, effectively serving just one flight either way, each day. The airline isn’t yet accepting bookings for the morning Hubli flight.
The airline has reportedly stopped operating flights to Cuddapah since a significantly long time. The airline is next open for bookings to Cuddapah only on the 11th of October. Air Pegasus inaugurated the Cuddapah airport, and was the only operator flying to the city. It operated the first flight to the city on 7th June, 2015.
Crew shortage is preventing the airline from both operating scheduled flights as well as expanding or strengthening the route network. Cancellation rates at the airline, which started at 0%, started increasing month on month to touch the airline’s high of 5.81% in the month of August.
Air Pegasus presently operates two ATR 72-500 registered VT-APA and VT-APB, both ex-Kingfisher ATR 72s leased from Elix Aero. The airline is presently scheduled to operate 16 flights a day (except Tuesdays), of which it currently operates only 12 – 14 flights a day. The maximum present daily aircraft utilisation is 10:50 hrs, and an average of 8:10 – 9:15 hrs per aircraft per day. Till the 31st of August 2015, the airline had flown 40,930 passengers with an average load factor of 75%. The average distance flown per flight is 435km, and the average block hour duration is 1:20 hrs per flight.
Air Pegasus is one of 5, 70-seat turboprop operators, and one of 4 ATR 72 operators in India. Trujet and Air Pegasus are the only two scheduled airlines in India to operate an all ATR 72 fleet.
Air Pegasus (ICAO: PPL, IATA: OP) is the newest airline in the Indian airspace, and the second active airline to be headquartered in of Bangalore, after AirAsia India. The airline is a regional scheduled operator, and plans to fly a fleet of only ATR 72 aircraft.
The airline received its first ATR 72-500 on September 27th, 2014. The aircraft, with a serial number MSN 699, formerly flew for the now defunt Kingfisher airlines as VT-KAA. The aircraft, back in India to fly for Air Pegasus, is registered VT-APA.
Six months after receiving its first and only aircraft, Air Pegasus was granted its Air Operator’s Permit (AOP) by the DGCA. The airline officially ‘launched’ on April 1st, and today – April 4th 2015 – has opened for bookings.
The second aircraft, another ex-Kingfisher ATR 72, is expected by the end of April 2015. The airline plans a third ATR 72 this year, details of which are not available.
The airline is India’s first all-ATR72 operator.
The airline plans to start operations on 12th April, 2015, with the inaugural flight from Bangalore to Hubli and back. The next day, the Bangalore – Trivandrum – Bangalore route will be inaugurated. These two stations are expected to be followed by Kochi, Chennai, Tuticorin, Belgaum, Rajmundry, Pondicherry and Madurai. Some of these stations witness good demand. However, it must be remembered that demand is a function of pricing.
Average turnaround time at the airline is 25 minutes, and the total aircraft utilization with these two sectors is 5:30 hrs. We expect the utilization to touch close to 10 hours per aircraft per day.
The airline opened for sales today, 4th April, 2015. The open for sales could perhaps have been supported by the presence of newspaper advertisements, media reports, tweets on the official Twitter account, or posts on the Facebook page. These were missing perhaps missing due to the long holiday weekend. It is learnt that the airline will launch a media campaign very soon.
Online Travel Agencies (OTA) are yet to list the airline in their searches, and may soon happen.
On the Bangalore- Hubli sector, a fully loaded ATR72 will consume around 875 litres of ATF as trip fuel, assuming a cruise at FL220. This translates to around INR 38,000 as fuel cost, including the discounted sales tax of 4% applicable to aircraft with less than 80 seats flying for a regional airline. The estimated operating cost, taking into account the low aircraft utilisation and few other factors, is at around INR 1,80,000 per flight, bringing the cost per seat on this sector to around INR 2,200, and CASK to INR 5.62.
On the Bangalore- Trivandrum sector, a fully loaded ATR72 will consume around 1,125 litres of ATF as trip fuel, assuming a cruise at FL220. This translates to around INR 49,000 as fuel cost. The operating cost is estimated at around INR 2,00,000 per flight, bringing the cost per seat on this sector to around INR 3,000, and CASK to INR 5.45.
Ticket prices on both sectors fall in eight buckets. The corresponding all inclusive fares are also shown. (deleted upon request)
Depending on the way revenue management at the airline is played with, the airline may comfortably break even with load factors of 70% +/- 10%. However, a lot of this depends on the actual demand by last minute travellers, when ticket prices usually sit in the higher buckets. This high yield D0-D7 demand is also driven by the service reputation that the airline builds over time.
The airline enjoys a monopoly on the Bangalore- Hubli route, and this will do the airline good. Air Pegasus competes with IndiGo, Air India, and Jet Airways on the Bangalore – Trivandrum sector. The airline will face certain stiff competition from IndiGo which prices its fares as low as INR 1,964.
We wish the airline all the very best in its operations.
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.
Bangalore based Air Pegasus today received its first aircraft – an ATR 72-500, MSN 699 – from its lessor, after successfully completing its acceptance flight. Minor glitches in the aircraft’s auto flight system had delayed the ferry.
The aircraft, sporting an all white body (much like Vistara’s first Airbus A320), was ferried from its storage at Kuala Lumpur, and flown to Bangalore via Dhaka, where it had a tech stop. The aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur at around 0340Z/0910IST, and landed at Dhaka at 1020Z/1550IST, after flying for almost 6hrs40min. The aircraft departed almost an hour later at 1120Z/1650IST, and landed at Kempegowda International Airport (Bangalore) at 1530Z/2100IST, after 4hrs10minutes.
The first leg – Kuala Lumpur (WMKK), Malaysia to Dhaka (VGHS) was 1,550NM long, and the second leg- Dhaka(VGHA) to Bangalore (VOBL), India was 1,047NM long. Cruise was at flight level (FL) 240. Below is the routing.
The aircraft was piloted by two captains- Sipsas and Brilakis – the only two expats on contract with Air Pegasus, as of today. The aircraft ferried flew in with a registration M-ABFC, and was formerly operating for Kingfisher Airlines with the registration VT-KAA. The aircraft went into storage in the April of 2012, and has not operated since.
Air Pegasus becomes ATR’s newest operator in the country.
Since 2011, Air Pegasus has been in the news. The coverage has damaged the airline’s reputation- the managing director talked of starting operations twice, and both timelines were missed with not a single aircraft in India that was to operate under the Pegasus brand.
The airline was granted its NOC late 2011, and since then renewed twice. Most, including the DGCA, haven’t taken Air Pegasus seriously. They’d written it off as another airline that will not take to the skies.
But all that has changed. The MD and CEO of the airline, Mr. Shyson Thomas, firmly believes its his last renewal of the NOC, for he is confident of getting his AOP in September. This time around though, it’s for real.
The airline will today (Monday, 4th August) sign on the dotted line a letter of intent with a lessor, who will supply the Bangalore based Air Pegasus Private Limited two eight-and-a-half year old ATR 72-500 aircraft. The airline has two expat pilots on its rolls, one of whom landed in Bangalore in the wee hours of Saturday morning from Athens, Greece, to attend an Aviation Security (AV-SEC) training. There are six Indian captains, and eleven first officers ready to fly the first two aircraft, and twenty all-female cabin crew ready to man it.
For the first time in the history of the yet-to-become airline, lessors have reportedly been sending the airline emails, rather than the other way around. There seems to be confidence from overseas, from the likes of people who have burnt their fingers leasing aircraft to Paramount and Kingfisher. It is too early to see pictures of an ATR in the airline’s paint scheme, but once the signatures are done, two ex-Kingfisher/Deccan aircraft will be ready to start another chapter in the history of Indian aviation: an all ATR, pure-regional airline based out of Bangalore, to cater specifically to the south- a region attractive for it includes three Tier I cities and many promising, and economically important Tier II cities.
The A-A-B-B-E aircraft manufacturers, namely, Airbus-ATR-Boeing-Bombardier-Embraer, have all announce their 2013 orders and deliveries.
Boeing announced its tally on 6th, Airbus on 13th, Embraer on 15th, Bombardier on 20th, and ATR on 23rd January, 2014. (today).
The results get sorted as: Medium-Long Haul Jetliners: Airbus v/s Boeing, Regional Jet: Embraer v/s Bombardier, and Turboprops: Bombardier v/s ATR.
Medium-Long Haul Jetliners: Airbus v/s Boeing
Boeing made more airplanes and sold and retained more airplane orders (based on NET orders) than Airbus. The single aisle family is the best performing airplanes for both manufacturers. The Quad Jet programs aren’t doing well. Lufthansa is the only operator of the 747-8 intercontinental: the passenger version of the 747-8.
Regional Jet: Embraer v/s Bombardier
Embraer seems to be steaming ahead of Bombardier’s regional jet programs. 5 orders of the E170 were cancelled, while 100 E175E2, 25 E190E2, and 25 E195E2 orders were placed. 3 CS100 orders were cancelled, while 37 CS300 orders were booked.
Embraer has emerged as the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial jets up to 130 seats.
Turboprops: Bombardier v/s ATR.
The Bombardier Q400 Turboprop program is nowhere close to the performance of the ATR 72/42 program. The above figures include 10 ATR42-600 sales and 7 ATR42-600 deliveries.
An ATR72-600 in Lao Airlines paint scheme, similar to the one that crashed. Photo: ATR
A Lao Airlines ATR 72-600 crashed on the 16th of October, 2013, at around 4:10pm local (0910Z) near Pakse, Laos.
The aircraft, registered under RDPL-34233, was MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 1071, delivered from the production line in March 2013. The brand new airplane was operating as domestic flight QV301 between Vientiane(IATA: VTE, ICAO: VLVT) and Pakse (IATA: PKZ, ICAO: VLPS) with 44 passengers and 5 crew members on board. All 49 on board are feared no-more.
The great circle distance between between Vientiane and Pakse is 250NM. Part of the flight occurs over neighboring Thailand. The crash seems to have happened when approaching runway 15 of VLPS. The aircraft crashed about 5NM from touchdown. Weather is a suspect, considering cyclone Nari’s effect on the region.
The runway at Pakse is 5332 feet long. The airport has a VOR, and NDB, but no ILS. The airport is co-operated by military and civilian authorities.
Lao Airlines was founded in 1976. In 1995, the airline received its first ATR 72. According to the airline, the ATR 72s (4 ATR 72-500 + 2 ATR 72-600 including one that crashed) form the backbone of the carrier’s fleet for international and major domestic services. Its fleet also comprises 4 Airbus A320 and 4 Xian MA60. The Chinese aircraft fleet is due to the country’s closer links with its Eastern neighbor. Laos was a French colony between 1893 and 1949.
Key points of ATR’s official statement include:
“At this time, the circumstances of the accident are still to be determined. Official sources of Lao Airlines declared that “the aircraft ran into extreme bad weather conditions and was reportedly crashed into the Mekong river. There were no news of survivors at this time”.
The Laos’ Authorities will lead the investigation and will remain the official source of information. In line with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Annex 13 convention, ATR will provide full assistance the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et Analyses (BEA), safety investigation authority representing the country of the aircraft manufacturer.”
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.
Karthik Kumar, a 16 year old with a strong passion for aviation, captured an intense photo of an ATR 72 departing Bangalore into a fiery morning sky. The photo is intense, and captures the ingredients that make it picture perfect: The silhouette of a beautiful airplane, the sun, and a golden-orange sky. Anyone can click a photograph, but only an eye for photography coupled with a burning passion for aviation can transform a mere picture into a work of art.
Kudos to the young spotter, whose photos on JetPhotos.net (LINK), Airplane-Pictures.net(LINK) and Airlines.net(LINK) may be viewed by clicking the links.
Jet Airways presently has a fleet of 18 ATR 72 aircraft, of which VT-JCX is an ATR 72-600, the rest being the -500 version of the popular ATR 72 aircraft. Very minor changes are present between the two airplane types (even the engine remains unchanged), and the largest difference lies in cockpit, which is all glass on the ATR 72-600, as opposed to a mix of mechanical and electronic displays on the -500.
On the 5th of December, 2012, Jet Airways issued a press release announcing the planned induction of five new ATR 72-600 aircraft into their fleet. The aircraft, some leased and some yet to be, from GECAS, are VT-JCX, VT-JCY, VT-JCZ, VT-JDA, and VT-JDB.
VT-JCX (MSN 1056) first flew on the 21st of November, 2012, and delivered on the 3rd of December, 2012, just 2 days before the issue of the press release. JCX flies in JetKonnect colors.
VT-JCY (MSN 1064) first flew on the 8th of December, 2012, and was “delivered” on the 31st of December 2012. The aircraft is painted in JetKonnect colors, but is stored at Toulouse Blagnac.
VT-JCZ (MSN 1075) first flew on the 27th of February, 2013, is painted in JetKonnect colors, but is yet to be delivered.
MSN 1077 was slated to be registered VT-JDA, but instead, is registered as V2-LIA, for LIAT, a Caribbean Airline.
The fate of MSN 1091, planned to be registered VT-JDB, is unknown.
So what went wrong? Kingfisher.
Two new ATR 72-500 joined the Jet Airways fleet: VT-JDC and VT-JDD. VT-JDC was registered on the 12th of February, 2013, and VT-JDD was registered on the 5th of March, 2013. JDC was formerly VT-KAO, and JDD was VT-KAK, both manufactured in 2007, and then delivered to Kingfisher Airlines.
Following Kingfisher’s collapse, the very attractive lease rates of the ATR 72-500, and the “no observable operational benefits” of the ATR 72-600 over the -500 have disrupted the -600’s plans in India.
As of today, the newest ATR 72 produced is MSN 1084, flying for Mount Cook Airlines, New Zealand. But the presence of a good number of Kingfisher ATR 72-500 in the country doesn’t bode too well for the sales of ATR 72-600 airplanes in South Asia; equally well performing ATR 72-500s are available cheap.
Says Rusdi Kirana, CEO of Lion Air, which has been, off late, making headline for all the “right” reasons.
Surprisingly, for a man who has absolutely no emotional attachment to the airline industry, all his orders are worthy of an ego boost. Surprising for a man who started off as a typewriter salesman, and has ended up as the CEO of the family owned business of the fastest growing airline in the world fueled by a dubious source of funding. Indonesia is ranked 118 by Transparency International. The ranking runs from least corrupt at No. 1 to most corrupt at No. 176.
In the February of 2012, the Indonesian airline placed an order for 27 ATR 72-600 aircraft, which, when all delivered in 2015, will make Lion Air’s subsidiary, Wings Air, the largest ATR operator.
In the same month of the same year, Lion Air placed the then largest firm order in aviation history, for 230 Boeing aircraft: 29 Boeing 737-900ERs, and 201 737Max, with options for 150 more 737MAXs.
Said Rusdi, in 2006, to Flightglobal, “Everyone knows that the passenger doesn’t really care about aircraft. I hear other airline people say they will go from old aircraft to new aircraft because their passenger likes it. But the passenger is already flying with you so who cares? Unless you are like Singapore Airlines where it is part of your image you should only change your aircraft if the cost is better. Here in Indonesia it is all about the ticket price.”
But Yesterday, (March 18th, 2013), Lion Air ordered for a total of 234 A320 Family aircraft, comprising 109 A320neo, 65 A321neo and 60 A320ceo: one of the biggest orders from that region.
Surely, the orders are business driven. The carrier is banned from flying into the US and EU skies over safety fears. Now, Airbus and Boeing “safety experts” are running in and out of the airline auditing its safety and helping improve its rating.
Lion air has quite a few thin feathers on its cap. The first Boeing 737-900ER, and the and last ATR 72-500, were delivered to Lion Air. Lion Air is expected to be the launch customer for the 737-9 MAX.
Lion Air, with its subsidiary Wings Air, presently has a fleet of 125 airplanes, which comprise a mix of 737 Classics, 737NGs, 747-400s, MD-82s, MD-83, ATR 72s, and Dash 8-300s. This is impressive, considering the airline started operations in 1999. This combined fleet size is 17 aircraft more than the combined fleet strength of the Indonesian national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, and its low cost subsidiary, Citilink Indonesia.
This is surprising growth, and surprising business moves, coming from an apparently public shy, boyish charm businessman who said almost 6 years ago, on why he started an airline: “I did it because I was hungry”. Surprising that in a business with hairline margins, high costs, and stiff competition, that was the first business of choice for a starving man.
Instead, he went on to say, “I didn’t have money. If I had money at that time I would never have done an airline. Only stupid people who have money do airlines. If I had money I would buy plantations or do mining or property or restaurants.”
So we have a shy CEO who was hungry, made about US$10 a month, and decided, of all businesses, to start an airline, and has managed to grow it to the largest by fleet in the country, with money magically appearing from absolutely nowhere.
If Aditya Ghosh considers Southwest beyond Godly status, Lion air is Supernatural.
Last Year, ATR produced 60 ATR 72 aircraft. Bombardier had produced 36 Q400s. 2012 saw ATR selling 115 aircraft (74 firm orders and 41 options), while Bombardier witnessed a sales of 81 aircraft (50 firm orders and 31 option aircraft).
This year, ATR is projected to produce 80 aircraft, almost all being the ATR 72-600. This will widen the gap between deliveries of the ATR 72 and the Q400, in 2013. A sign that the slower of the two turboprops, the ATR 72, is actually racing ahead of the Q400.
Maybe it’s the operating economics of the ATR 72. Or the average regional route lengths suited to its typical missions. Or the large number of operators in a region. Or the access to proximate training facilities. Or the rise of the developing nations while the developed saturate.
The aviation market in Asia, especially South-East Asia, is booming, in contrast to slowdowns and downsizing in Europe and the United States. In the February of 2013, ATR won an order for upto 36 ATR 72-600s, from Malaysia Airlines (MAS). Prior to that order, MAS had ruled out the ATR 72-600 series, on the grounds that there was no -600 simulator in the area. Says ATR’s CEO Filippo Bagnato, “In the last five years, Asia-Pacific has accounted for 50% of sales; so it is quite an important market for us”. So important is the market that ATR, in December, set up a ATR 72-600 training centre at Singapore, just because one customer demanded it.
What resulted in the ATR epidemic in Asia, particularly South East Asia?
The rise of the South East, Average regional route lengths, superior operating economics, Aggressive Sales, local availability of ATR type-specific qualified pilots and engineers, Luck #1, and Luck #2.
The Rise of the South East.
Says Neil Dave, Consulting Analyst, Aerospace & Defense, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, “Many ASEAN countries currently lack comprehensive and well developed ground transport infrastructure and countries in these regions are divided by vast seas, therefore there is a demand for a well-knit, flexible air-transport system,” said Dave.
“Also, with the increasing popularity of air-travel as mode of transport, there is a rise in demand for low cost travel among countries in the ASEAN region which are not connected,” Dave continued.
Quoting a CAPA report, “The continued strength of the economies in ASEAN, led by booming Indonesia, and the continued rapid rise of the region’s middle class should ensure another big year of traffic growth for Southeast Asian carriers – particularly LCCs and, to a lesser extent, full-service carriers.”
Lucky with Route Lengths:
The ATR 72 is typically packed with 68 -72 passengers. Air Dolomiti in Europe flies its -72s with 66 seats, while Jet Airways (South Asia) has 68 seats, and this number can easily rise to 70-72 seats for South East Asian operators, thanks to the average height of the average male in the respective countries (Germany: 5′ 10″, India: 5′ 5″, Indonesia: 5′ 2.2″), which allow for a lower seat pitch.
The typical baggage weight limits for ATR flights in the SE-Asian region are 10kg for cabin and 15 kg for check in, totalling 25kg. With the average assumed body weight of 70kg per passenger, this total weight per passenger, including baggage, is 95kg.
With 95kg/passenger and 72 passengers, the payload goes upto 6840kg. Considering headwinds of upto 80kts at the cruise levels of the ATR, the useful range of the ATR 72-600 can be very safely assumed to be 500 NM. (ATR Literature claims 825NM for the -600 “option” [23,000kg MTOW] under the following conditions: ISA – No wind – JAR Fuel Reserves – Typical European Airline OEW)
500NM circles, centred at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangalore, cover the whole of India.*
A 500NM circle, centred at Manila, covers almost the whole of the Philippines.*
A 500NM circle, centred at Bangkok, covers the whole of Thailand.*
500NM circles, centred at Kuala Lumpur and Kuching, covers all airports in Malaysia.*
500NM circles centred at Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar, Ambon and Jambi cover most of Indonesia.*
The regional routes are tailor made for the ATR 72-600. Luck #1.
*Does not consider terrain and elevated airports beyond the performance limits of the ATR 72.
The ATR 72 is less expensive to buy (by list price, though the heavy market demand for the type may make Bombardier offer the Q400 for lesser), less expensive to operate (the Q400 consumes almost 30% more fuel than the ATR 72-600), and due to its simpler design and systems, has a very high dispatch reliability.
The lower operating costs results in a lower breakeven load, of around 35 passengers, which is about 6 to 10 passengers lesser than the Q400.
ATR and Airbus share the same parent company: EADS. The not-spoken-of fact is that if you buy an ATR aircraft, you get a good deal on Airbus airplanes. And vice-versa. On top of this, ATR’s sales team is comprised of an aggressive one, that can help with support from European export credit agencies. Further, ATR goes out of the way to secure a customer.
Bombardier is milder. “The aircraft sells for itself” is the attitude of key sales personnel. Plus, Bombardier has two nearly competing aircraft under its brand: the Q400, and the CRJ700. Both are in the 70 seat category, and have similar range. Bombardier, and the customer, are easily confused.
Bombardier, unlike EADS, does not, as yet, offer a comprehensive product line. The yet to fly C-Series will be Bombardier’s first single aisle mainline solution, which will well complement the Q400. But Bombardier still lacks the entire product line and capacity that would be needed for domestic operations: products the size of the A321 and A320.
Local availability of manpower and training facility.
There are only 5 operators of the Q400, in 4 countries of Asia. ANA and JAC in Japan, Air Niugini in Papua New Guinea, PAL Express in the Philippines, and Spicejet in India. There is no abundance of Asian Q400 pilots and engineers.
Although South and South-East Asia is teeming with ATR type pilots and engineers, the demand for the type is so high that there is a shortage of such qualified crew. This is where luck#2 plays a role.
ATR has one ATR 72-600 training centre at Singapore, which will help significantly reduce the costs of training and sim-checks.
There are ATR-type-rated pilots in Europe who could come to SE countries such as Indonesia. Lufthansa’s ATR operation Air Dolomiti, for example, will be downsizing, which will make ATR pilots available. They will need jobs, and they are in good demand.
The curious case of Citilink Indonesia:
Citilink, the low cost carrier of the national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, had considered the Bombardier Q400 for its turboprop fleet. It was believed that the Q400 would be chosen, to differentiate from the competition: Wings Air’s ATR 72 fleet.
Arif Wibowo, the CEO of Citilink, said that there were three key considerations to selecting the aircraft type: economic, such the purchase price; financing; and aircraft performance. In the request for proposals, Citilink required bidders to present a plan to provide pilots, and ATR had agreed to this.
Incidentally, after Citilink announced in the December of 2012 that had decided to order ATR 72-600s, it placed a firm order with Airbus for 25 A320neo, in the January of 2013.
The Head or the Heart?
Just because two or more aircraft are in the same class, it doesn’t mean that they’ll perform to the same standard. An airline’s requirement stems from route demand, and this demand defines the desired capacity, and range; Everything else that define the aircraft then play an important role in deciding the best.
In an airframe market, filled with competition, which results in options, the airline is caught between choosing a product that stands out from the other players, and choosing a product that makes the most economical sense. More often than not, what ego-driven airlines look for, is a differentiator, while truly customer focused airlines that are keen on operational viability, look for, is a suitable performer.
Citilink is a low cost carrier; and no 70-80 seat airplane beats the operating economics of the ATR 72-600. The Q400 has a greater performance (greater range, faster climbs, higher cruise speeds), and promising potential (upto 8 more seats on the same flight), but a potential remains a potential until tapped. Forego the 8 seats and you break even with lesser passengers. Look at the typical routes in South East Asia and they are all suited for an ATR 72, as typified by Wings Air, which is set to becomes the largest operator of the ATR 72. Watch the ever increasing fuel prices and you’ll want a less thirsty aircraft.
The Q400 promises more revenue potential, with more seats and an extra flight. But it has to fly more passengers to break even, and more passengers to make the same amount of profit that operating the ATR 72-600 will make. Not many regional sectors bring in 100% loads to tap that potential.
True that the Q400 flies faster, but there must be customers willing to pay for that speed. In a booming aviation environment that is low-cost driven, where the markets are yet to mature and loads are yet to pick up, economics is paramount.
In short, in most of Asia, a low cost carrier can only beat the ATR 72-600 with an ATR 72-600. For everywhere else, like in North America, you have the Q400.
With respect to type rating designation for the ATR 42/72 series, DGCA finally recognizes the same type rating (single license endorsement) for the existing ATR 42/72 variants and ATR-600 variants as “ATR42/72”. This means that the flight crew on Jet Airways’ ATR 72-500 can now fly either the -600 variant or the -500 variant on a single day, but not both the types on the same day.
This allows Jet Airways to better utilise its turboprop flight crew, which until recently was affected by DGCA’s then non recognition of the common type rating for the two types.
With only 2 ATR 72-600 in its fleet, and more expected to be inducted, this recognition is welcomed as Jet Airways slowly phases out the -500 in favour of the -600. Further, Jet Airways will realise training cost savings from the newly opened ATR Training Centre at Singapore, which houses one ATR 72-600 FFS (Full Flight Simulator).
The common rating is allowed with a differences training. EASA recommends a differences training of 5 days, which includes and covers 28 hours of classroom instruction, web based training, and practice on the Virtual Hardware Platform Trainer (VHPT), and 4 hours per crew on a Full Flight Training device (FFT), such as a FFS.
The differences training between the two aircraft focus on:
Engine malfunctions during take-off;
Use of avionics in normal and abnormal / emergency operations, including FMA annunciations, caution and warning messages on the Engine & Warning Display (EWD), and associated human factors issues;
Use of Flight Management System (FMS);
Use of Electronic Checklist (ECL);
Ice detection and management systems and displays (including APM); and
Crew Resource Management (CRM) with regard to the new functionalities.
Jet Airways (I) Pvt Ltd has reportedly leased two Kingfisher ATR 72-500s, bearing DGCA registrations VT-KAK (MSN 758) and VT-KAO (MSN 772), both manufactured in the year 2007. These two aircraft are leased from INV Jet Leasing Ltd.
Jet Airways has managed to lease these planes at a very attractive rate, thanks to the inability of the lessors repossess and fly out Kingfisher aircraft.
The aircraft are being painted in the Jet Airways’ livery; re-registration of the aircraft is uncertain. (Update: Aircraft re-registered as VT-JDD and VT-JDC, respectively)
Of the 15 Kingfisher ATR 72-500s registered with the DGCA, only three seem to be leased from traceable and established lessors.
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.
VT-JCX (click for photo) and VT-JCY are now visible on the DGCA’s aircraft register; These are the two, and presently only ATR 72-600s in India, flying for Jet Airways, and deployed on the Mumbai-Diu-Porbandar and Mumbai-Udaipur sectors.
Interestingly, both airplanes reflect on the register as “ATR 72-212A”, which is no different from the type designation of the ATR 72-500. While it is confusing for someone looking up the registry to know if it refers to the ATR 72-500 or the ATR 72-600, a simple look at the All Up Weight, year of manufacture and evidently the manufacturer serial number will sort out your confusion; The ATR 72-600s have an AUW of 23,000kgs, while the ATR 72-500s had a maximum of 22,800 (in the Jet Airways Fleet). But why the same name?
According to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA):
ATR 72-212A “600 version” is the designation to identify ATR 72-212A aircraft models having received the New Avionic Suite (NAS) modification, also named as “Glass Cockpit”, which represents the incorporation of ATR Significant Major Change no 5948 and a batch of associated ATR (major & minor) modifications. ATR 72-212A “600 version” aircraft are not considered as new aircraft model or variant. “ATR 72-600” is the commercial designation of the ATR 72-212A aircraft model fitted with NAS modification. This designation must not be used on ATR certified / approved documentation, and only mention of ‘Mod 5948’, ‘ATR 72- 212A with Mod 5948’, “ATR 72-212A fitted with NAS‟ or “ATR 72-212A -600 version” must be indicated.
F-WWEY, manufacturer serial number (MSN) 098, is a 24 year old ATR 72, made in the same year as the first flight of the ATR 72. That very ATR was, in the May of 2009, converted to a ATR 72-600, highlighting the minimal visible differences and changes that the 72 has undergone since its first flight.
The biggest change in the ATR 72 is the new avionic suite, which transforms the Honeywell and Collins cluttered deck to a clean, well laid out modern glass cockpit with avionics from Thales. Borrowing philosophy and deriving certain functionality from the Airbus A380, the cockpit is new. Very new.
The Dividing Line: The clean and well presented -600 cockpit (left) and the cluttered -500 cockpit (right). Undoubtedly late, but worth the wait.
So new that a very senior commander with the airline, says that “An ATR 72-500 can directly hand fly the -600 easily, for nothing changes with respect to the handling. But he will not be using the avionics to the best of its automation capabilities and functions that significantly ease crew workload, and boost situation awareness”.
Honestly, when I sat with the cockpit layout diagram of the ATR, I was lost, despite being very familiar with the -500. Where you once knew knobs, switches and controls to be: may not be there at all!
With CRTs and electro-mechanical gauges replaced by 5 LCD screens of 6” x 8”, the number of parts has been cut down by 30%, offering a 30kg weight saving and maintenance cost savings of around 15%. For an aircraft that has jumped 200 kgs in its AUW in comparison to the -500 fleet at Jet Airways, 30 kgs is a significant amount.
Primary Flight Display
Let’s try to understand the gains. The older ATR cockpit has, for primary flight instruments, an electro mechanical airspeed indicator with bugs that need to be manually set, a CRT based EADI (Electronic Attitude and Direction Indicator), that would only show you, in addition, if you were flying faster or slower than the manually set speed on the airspeed indicator. The altimeter is electromechanical, with a knob to set the pressure. Newer vertical speed indicators are small, LCD screen based, that also doubles up as a traffic alert collision and avoidance system (TCAS) display, with a small map showing proximate traffic, and the range of these proximate traffic set by a range button. All this, and significantly more functions, are now packed into the primary flight display, which is just one 10” display. There are no moving parts. There is no bulky equipment associated with a Cathode Ray Tube. There is reduced electromagnetic interference, and reduced cooling requirements. If you need a simple comparison, think of the difference between a 34” LCD screen and an old TV. The LCD screen is clearer, crisper, bigger, with richer colours, thinner, significantly much lighter, and when you place your hand near the back, you hardly feel any heat. And if you are to bring your portable radio near the LCD screen, you’ll hardly hear any interference, if not nothing at all.
The ATR 72’s NAS cockpit is way beyond this. Besides eliminating old technology, and boosting reliability, the NAS introduces much greater functionality that serves one significant purpose: reduced crew workload and increased situation awareness. The ATR crew today is better equipped to answer the questions of “When”, “Where”, “Why”, “What” and “Who” much quicker, with possibly greater accuracy than ever before, without moving the head and hands too much in the cockpit.
Organized, simplified, reliable and enhanced: this is the new ATR that will make your flight in the skies safer. Join me as we discover how, as we embark on a journey that describes, in significant and sufficient detail what this new airplane offers, in contrast to the other 42 ATR aircraft registered in India.