ATR received EASA certification for its high-density cabin layout which fits 78 seats, using the existing airframe which was until recently certified for a maximum of 74 seats. Cebu Pacific, the leading Phillipines low cost airline, is the launch customer of this new configuration of the ATR 72-600. The airline had formally announced an order for 16 ATR72-600s during the Paris Air Show with options to acquire an additional 10 ATR 72-600, worth US$673 million at list prices.
Cebu Pacific will receive its 78 seat aircraft in August 2016. According to ATR, ” The additional seats are very valuable for airlines operating in the regions where traffic grows rapidly and the demand is highly sensitive to fare”. According to Thierry Casale, ATR Senior Vice President Programmes, “The demand comes from airlines, especially in the Southeast Asian market, requesting to further optimize the cabin space and to increase the number of available seats for regional flights".
In August 2014, Thailand’s Nok Air took delivery of an 86 seat Bombardier Q400, becoming the launch operator for the extra capacity seating configuration. Bombardier was able to squeeze in 86 seats at 29 inches seat pitch by shifting the aft galley into the aft cargo hold, thereby reducing aft cargo space by 20%. Forward baggage hold is done away with.
ATR can pack in 78 seats by reducing seat pitch to 28 inches, downsizing and moving the aft galley into the rear cargo compartment, and by placing two rear facing seats in the first row, which take up a part of the otherwise forward right cargo hold, thereby reducing forward cargo space. ATR’s target is an 80 seat ATR 72, which will be possible only with four, rear facing seats on the first row. Such seats do not recline.
The configuration is built with the current SFE Geven Classic seats, requiring no special or different seats.
Interestingly, demand for these configurations have come exclusively from South East Asian low cost operators. According to a study that the ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations DNA’ conducted, Filipinos are the second shortest race in the South East Asian region, with males measuring 5 feet 3.7 inches. Thailand’s males are the second tallest, at an average 5 feet 6.9 inches. This makes Filipino men 4.8% shorter than the average Thai man, while a 28 inch seat pitch is only 3.4% lesser than a 29 inch seat pitch. Assuming similar thin seats on both aircraft, Filipinos, due to their height, may feel as comfortable, if not more comfortable, than Thai men flying in the high density Q400.
Indonesian males are the shortest in the South East Asian region, at 5 feet 2 inches, which makes the 78 seat variant well suited for the Indonesian market. If airlines are scientifically driven, airlines in other countries may not opt for the 78 seat variant, unless the business model decides otherwise.
The 78 seat ATR 72 seats 4 more than the until-recent maximum of 74. Assuming a 100% seat factor, 4 extra passengers will burn around 11 kg additional fuel on a 250NM sector, assuming ancillary cargo remains unchanged. This results in a 1.3% fuel burn increase on a 250NM sector, or a 0.65% increase in costs assuming fuel is 50% of the total operating expenses. Yet, due to the four additional seats, the cost per seat, after including the fuel increase, drops by 4.5% on a 250NM sector. We ignore possible increased maintenance costs due to slightly higher stressed operations.
This allows an airline to drop average fares by down to 4.5% to remain competitive in the market at unchanged margins.
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.