ATR targets Bombardier’s last stronghold: the USA

May 17, 2016, © Leeham Co.: ATR, the dominant manufacturer of turboprop airliners, last week undertook its first major marketing push in the USA in 10 years.
The US has been the exclusive domain for passenger turboprop service above 50 seats. (FedEx operates ATR cargo aircraft.)
But the time has come for ATR to return to the US for a number of reasons.

  • The Bombardier Q400 is aging in US service, and replacements will be needed soon.
  • The ATR 72-600 has been modernized with a new glass cockpit, larger overhead bins and other features.
  • The aircraft now has an optional forward boarding door, a desirable feature in the US, allowing jetbridge boarding.

Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, operates 52 Q400s, including 14 Next Gen models, according to the Ascend data base. These are all of them in the US. Horizon is returning 15 of the Q400s come off lease, replacing them with Embraer E175s.

Republic Airways Holdings previously operated the aircraft, but is disposing of them in its bankruptcy process. Air Canada’s regional affiliates operate a number of Dash 8-300s and Q400s. WestJet is a recent, new operator of the Q400.

ATR officials point to the market share dominance in the turboprop market, which has only increased as Bombardier’s financial troubles and singular focus on the C Series increased during the long gestation period of the new mainline jet. ATR has a current order backlog of 250 aircraft; the Q400’s backlog at March 31, the end of BBD’s first quarter, was a mere 33, or an 11.6% share.

ATR Market Share

Click on image to enlarge. Source: ATR.

ATR Config

Click on image to enlarge. Source: ATR.

ATR’s US tour included major hubs for American, Delta and United airlines as well as Seattle, where Alaska Air Group is headquartered.
The ATR-72-600 has larger overhead bins that accommodate medium-sized roller bags sideways. This is important because the forward boarding door eliminates some baggage space. Officials said the larger overhead will offset some of this loss, but additional space in the rear of the plane, retrieved from the use of the Smart Galley and lav, also offsets the lost space.

LNC rode along on a demonstration flight in Seattle. Like the Q400, the -600 has noise attenuation. In the Q400, this is active; in the -600, it is passive. Aft of the propellers (the quietest part of a propeller aircraft), the -600 is so quiet that conversation of people in the forward part of the cabin can be heard. A 6ft 2in passenger (from Alaska Air Group) was able to stand with headroom to spare.

20 Comments on “ATR targets Bombardier’s last stronghold: the USA

  1. Hello Scott

    So in the ATR42 the forward door isn’t an emergency exit whereas it is in the ATR72 ?
    Interesting rear lugage compartement in the 3 class layout… it’s new ? (the forward pax door was introduced with the first ATR4/ models, so it’s hardly new

    Any news winglets ?

    Best regards

  2. As someone who appreciates the significant speed advantage of the Q400 on longer runs, I hope this campaign doesn’t get very far.

    • there is a reason the ATR’s haven’t sold in North America, they are an inferior product…in Asia this doesn’t matter, where power and safety doesn’t matter. But in North America people actually want to get to their destination safely. Additionally, North America sees many more long thin routes, where the Q400 is faster, safer, more range, and has significantly more flexibility.
      Unlike, the US, Canadians have no reservations flying turboprops, so all the biggest Canadian carriers use Q400’s as their primary plane under 80 seats. The Q400 offers superior economics to CRJ’s and Embraers , while offering close to jet-like speeds and significant range.

      • “…in Asia this doesn’t matter, where power and safety doesn’t matter. But in North America people actually want to get to their destination safely.”

        – I think everyone on earth wants to get to their destination safely. But your comment would imply that the ATR is not a safe aircraft. It certainly had an issue in the past with wing icing but my understanding is that it has been fixed. To compare the ATR to the Q400 in terms of power is like comparing the A340 to the 747. The former was more economical, like the ATR is, and the latter was more powerful, just like the Q400 is. But the A340 was just as safe to fly as the 747, and so is the ATR compared to the Q400.

        “Unlike, the US, Canadians have no reservations flying turboprops, so all the biggest Canadian carriers use Q400’s as their primary plane under 80 seats.”

        – Cultural considerations aside I believe Canadian operators like the Q400 because it can easily cross the Rockies; something harder to undertake for an ATR. So it is not so much a question of safety as a question of capabilities. The fact that the ATR is not suited for this kind of environment does not necessarily imply that it is an unsafe aircraft.

        That being said, I think it was a mistake to kill the Q300.

    • Ditto: Its a great aircraft for under 500 mile runs in Western US for running almost jet speeds on those routes.

      Also it has a vastly better high and hot performance than the anemic ATR. FedEx may bulk out before weight out but not so pax.

      Q400 can be throttled back to very closely match the ATR fuel burn, that has not been emphasized by Bombardier but is now.

      Also, the engine performance gives you options for an escape route that the ATR cannot match as it can’t maintain or reach higher let alone hot altitude on one engine.

      You can never have too much hp in an aircraft.

  3. There’s a pretty good ATR72-600 video on youtube.

    I think the purchasing & operating cost of the ATR’s are significantly lower and the cabin and cockpit more modern / comfortable than the Q400 at this stage. The Q200/300 are out of production and a Q400 weighs 30% more than an ATR72, also when yu fly it slow. So you obviously need a very good story to justify 5-10min shorter flight time on most short flights.

    As discussed in previous posts, ATR /Alenia want to go bigger, Airbus resists. I think eventually a typical european compromise, a lower risk, moderately bigger, updated aircraft, based on the Atr72-600, might see the light of day.
    Maybe something brand new isn’t needed at this stage.

    • When you fly slow a Q400 weighs more than an ATR?

      Hmm. Op costs are pretty much fuel, if Q flies slower then its close and you can still make up time if needed that the ATR can’t.

      Also if utilization is a requirement the Q400 can give you that, ATR can’t. Those little 10 minute blocks can add up to another flight in a day of ops.

      Bombardier need to keep pricing competitive obviously, they also are doing what they failed to do before and that is emphasize the close economy if that is your main driver, with the advantages that an ATR simply does not offer.

      The ATR simply cannot do the things a Q400 can, a Q400 can do everything an ATR can and two huge things the ATR cannot do.

      With a far more powerful engine (yes that costs more) its a safer aircraft.

      I was in a coupe of incident where I needed more power and just barley got out. On the other hand my broth had a Super Cub with a 160 hp engine, we got into a bind landing one day, he cobbed the throttle and popped us right up and out of what looked like a dicey situation that with that power was not. He knew it, I had not seen it demonstrated.

      What is one NO CRASH worth in monetary terms?

      You have to only experience that once to become a believer that you can’t have too much power. My older brother told me the same thing when I got my first big cycle. I was going to get a 500 cc, he said that was a huge mistake, get a 750, it had the power to successfully opera on freeways. I never had an issue.

      Years latter I was given a 500 cc motorcycle. On the freeway one day, I got trapped between two cars and could not accelerate out of it. Almost wiped out, about the thickness of my jeans it was that close. That sort of thing is hard to understand unless you have been in it, but its fact.

      And any mechanic will tell you, its really nice not to have to strain your power plant if you don’t have to, so once you are “safe” you can throttle back and not risk taking out your other engine due to stress.

      ATR has to go balls to the wall just to say in the air all the time. No thank you. One engine out, ergh.

  4. Turboprop use to offert a 20% economy on operating cost over regional jet on short route. But new RJ like the E2, MRJ and the SSJ100 have at least a 20% lower operating cost putting them head to head with the turboprops. Bombardier and ATR have to work with PWC to get the PW100NG on there plane otherwise the turboprop market is a dead market.

  5. Those seat plans look like a lash-up job. You get a front exit where the forward baggage hold should be or you have to walk down a corridor through the extended rear baggage hold to get to the lavatory . I suspect they would use the space much more efficiently if they designed the front exit in.

  6. This just goes to show how badly mismanaged Bombardier has been, they have less than 12% share in a two horse race turboprop market, which is the definition of failure, business wise. Everywhere you look they are underscaled and fragmented. They build trains, build business jets build turboprops, build single aisle planes. there is no other company that tries to do such crazy hodgepodgery.

    A few months ago Beadouin flim flammed the market that he was looking at “industry consolidation”, they even leaked some gaudy offers from other manufacturers looking to combine rain operations. In the end of course he went to tried and true Quebec government for the money, $1.5bn from the pension fund, just a financial transaction of which the only similarity to consolidation was the first three letters.

    Today the national government is offering them a fantastic deal fir anyone that has the slightest sense, long term health of the company at heart, but no, the family would rather control a permanently sick entity than give up control and have the company thrive.

  7. And Boeing sucked out 8 billion from Washington state?

    What’s the difference? Well Bombardier offers a good living for its employees. Wal-Mart’s employees are on welfare. How does that work out?

    Huge tax breaks in South Carolina for the plant there.

    Does corporate welfare make any different if its national or state?

  8. What does it take to become more succesful in the US again? More speed, capacity options, range, comfort, efficiency, local completion/ assembly, dollar content, gate competability, sharp pricing, ..?

    • There is something ironic with ATR versus the Q400. Today ATR dominates a huge portion of the world market and if they had access to the North American market they would essentially take BBD out of the entire market simply because the own the rest. So one could argue that it is a good thing that at least BBD dominates in North America. But it is interesting to remember that at one time, I don’t remember if it was under Boeing or Bombardier, de Havilland offered to acquire the then struggling ATR. But the European authorities rejected the bid on the ground that it would remove all competition. But if ATR were successful in their attempt to reintegrate the NA market it would do just that.

  9. No pilot would ever choose ATR over the Q400! I have flown both and Q400 is so much better than the ATR. Performance is the key,
    you can fly over the icing conditions easily on the Q400, on the ATR you are stuck there coz it doesn’t have any extra performance. Gusting x-winds on landing the Q400 is awesome, ATR is terrible to handle then. Pilots love the Q400, its superb aircraft, they hate the ATR, its just awfull.

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