Franco-Italian turboprop manufacturer ATR has released its first-ever market forecast focused on China, estimating the thus-far-nonexistent market for regional turboprops will need 1,100 aircraft, worth $25.6 billion, by 2037.

The Toulouse-based airframer calculates 25 passenger turboprops were in service in 2017. Last year, ATR signed letters of intent (LOIs) with Chinese customers for a combined 13 ATR 42-600s, but has yet to deliver the first one. Regional aircraft account for 2% of the country’s fleet, compared to a global average of 25%, and large aircraft being used on thin regional routes require subsidies, ATR said.

Although hopes for massive sales in China have long failed to materialize, ATR predicts that, “in 2037, 87% of the regional and general aviation activity will come from newly created routes, calculated at a total of close to 2,200.”

Under Chinese regulation, general aviation (GA) is the designation for regional aviation if the aircraft seats 30 or fewer. The aforementioned LOIs are for ATR 42-600s with a 30-seat layout, a weak density for the 50-seat-class aircraft. ATR anticipates a need for 800 30-seaters connecting “300 general aviation airport and many regional airports” and creating 1,500 routes.

The central government encourages to build GA airports “around hubs with flows of 10 million passengers per year or above” and “to conduct short-haul transportation in remote areas or where ground transportation is underdeveloped.”

In regional aviation, ATR foresees a market for 70 aircraft in the 50-seat category and 230 in the 70-seat category. They would create 700 routes.

The company estimates 87% of the airports account for 10% of the traffic. ATR emphasizes the expansion of regional aviation could connect domestic passengers in China to the high-speed train network.

Thierry Dubois, thierry.dubois@aviationweek.com