ATR announced the first flight of the ATR 72-600F, new purpose-built regional freighter aircraft, on Wednesday. The aircraft took off from the company’s headquarters in Saint-Martin, France, at 2 pm local time and flew for about two hours. According to ATR, “during the flight, crew onboard performed a number of tests to measure the new aircraft’s flight envelope and flight performance”.
The first ATR 72-600F freighter will be delivered to FedEx, which placed an order for 30 units plus 20 options in November 2017. The cargo airline has invested in expanding its fleet of turboprops, which already has 42 older models of the ATR. In addition to the new aircraft, FedEx will also be the first company to receive the Cessna SkyCourier, a non-pressurized twin-engine that is under development.
Compared to the ATR passenger plane, the cargo version has a wide front door to facilitate the handling of bulky items and has no windows. According to the manufacturer, the ATR 72-600F is capable of accommodating a maximum volume of 74.6 m³. It is compatible with three types of pallets: 88 by 62 inches (nine pallets), 88 by 108 inches (five) and in the LD3 standard (seven).
In addition to the cargo version, the manufacturer also offers on the market a takeoff and short landing variant to serve airports in hot regions and with more modest infrastructure.
For ATR, a Franco-Italian partnership, the ATR 42 and 72 turboprop family has been an exception in a market that has lost competitors in recent decades, but which has shown a promising future.
The bet is that new players will enter the market such as Embraer, which has repeatedly stated that it is studying a new turboprop aircraft with a capacity between 70 and 100 seats. However, the market has indicated that the new regional aircraft should adopt hybrid-electric propulsion in the near future.