US cargo specialist FedEx Express will become the launch customer for the line-produced ATR 72-600 freighter, after placing a firm order for 30 aircraft, plus 20 options.

ATR described the deal as a “major contract” and said the new ATR 72-600F cargo version will enter into service with FedEx Express in 2020.

“These aircraft will be the first new ATRs to be directly delivered from the factory in a freighter configuration,” ATR said, announcing the deal Nov. 8.

There are currently no ATR 72-600s operating in a cargo configuration.

The ATR 72-600F has a windowless fuselage, reinforced floor panels, a forward large cargo door (LCD) and a rear upper hinged cargo door. The cabin has a 74.6 m3 capacity, which can be used for bulk cargo, or up to seven unit load device (ULD) LD3 containers.

“We worked with ATR to develop this new aircraft, which include special features to help us grow our business, especially in the air freight market where shipments are larger and heavier. The [ATR] 72-600F will play an important role in our global network by helping us deliver fast, economical service to small and medium sized markets,” FedEx Express president and CEO David Cunningham said.

ATR CEO Christian Scherer said the ATR 72-600F was designed following a deep technical and economic analysis. He added that the variant is the only new-build large regional aircraft freighter available on the market.

The regional aircraft manufacturer has been working to increase its focus on freight customers, setting up a new department to help support cargo conversions, building on the certification of the ATR 72-600 combi version in 2015.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@penton.com