Turboprops are big business. ATR, the world-leading manufacturer for regional aircraft up to 90 seats, boasts that every eight seconds an ATR turboprop takes off or lands somewhere around the world.
While airlines worldwide operate around 1,800 intermediate and large regional passenger turboprops, compared to est. 3,400 regional jets (according to Flight Global’s Flight Fleets Analyzer), the regional jet market is being challenged by the turboprop. Regional airlines are increasingly recognising the benefits of investing in propeller aircraft, including:
ATR’s 72-600 model can seat anywhere from 50 to 72 passengers, depending on configuration, while the smaller ATR 42-600 seats 40 to 46. At the upper end, the Bombardier Q400, popular in the regional-affiliate fleets of several US carriers including American and Alaska Airlines, has capacity for 70 to 78 passengers. The versatility of seat arrangement means that routes struggling to fill a 100-seater regional jet could easily fill a 40-seat turboprop, with a scalable fleet to fulfil the load factor of any route.
- Operating costs
While jets may be the faster aircraft type, on routes of 560 kilometres/350 miles or less, such as Paris to London, or Xiamen to Hong Kong, the scheduled flying time may only be five or 10 minutes longer via turboprop. Plus, on such short hops – the backbone of many regional airlines – the significantly lower fuel consumption of the turboprop engine makes it the far more economical option. Turboprops, such as the ATR 72-600, the lowest seat per mile cost aircraft in the 70-seat segment, also have lower maintenance costs, combining cost-efficient performance with an environmentally-friendly approach.
- The new turboprop
Customers have traditionally preferred the jet to the turboprop: the jet is seen as the quieter, more comfortable and spacious aircraft in comparison. However, the new breed of turboprops have the space and flexibility to add first, business and premium-economy style seats, bringing this type into the cabin class space. Thanks to advances in engine technology, noise levels on-board are far below previous levels, and new cabin designs provide expanded baggage space and ergonomic seats for passengers.
As the US and Europe catch up to the attraction of the turboprop, airlines in Asia Pacific and the Middle East are filling up the order book. ATR anticipates a demand for 750 turboprops within the next two decades in APAC (excluding China), while Embraer has mentioned a 90-seat turboprop concept is on the cards. As the aviation industry continues to boom, versatile, cost-effective, updated turboprops are certain to be central as the market evolves.
AXIS makes advanced full flight simulators built to the highest technical and quality standards for pilot training. As part of its range of full flight simulators, the company designs and builds world-class EASA and FAA-certified Level D simulators for ATR 42-600 and ATR 72-600 aircraft.
(Photo credits: Pixelmaker)