The Shaanxi Tianju Investment Group has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with ATR to buy 10 ATR 42-600s to develop commuter service in Xinjiang, China. First deliveries are expected to “start as soon as possible in 2018,” ATR said in a statement announcing the order at the Paris Air Show.

ATR said there is significant potential to develop commuter services in China and to improve connectivity between smaller towns at the lowest operating costs. This is a key priority of the Chinese government, which has a new focus in the development of regional and general aviation in order to increase quick and efficient access to smaller areas across the country.

Tianju Group chairman Yang Qiang said, “In responding to the Chinese government’s strong intention [Belt and Road Initiative] to promote the general aviation market, Tianju has made an intensive market study and identified Xinjiang as the ideal location to develop commuter service under general aviation operations. We are convinced that the specifically adapted ATR 42-600 will provide the best answer for this market segment, which so far does not have operators dedicated to this segment.”

China has been a strategic partner and supplier for ATR for nearly 20 years. Xi'an Aircraft Industry Co., Ltd. (XAC), a subsidiary of AVIC, provides substantial fuselage sections along with parts of the wings of the ATR aircraft.

ATR also announced it has received a LOI from Xuzhou Hantong Aviation Development to purchase three 42-600s with deliveries anticipated for 2018. The aircraft will be part of a program to develop commuter air passenger service in Jiangsu Province in eastern-central China. Chinese service provider and operator Reignwood Aviation will jointly develop commuter services in eastern China with Hantong.

"Under [the] Xuzhou local government’s strategy to develop Xuzhou as a new cargo and regional aviation hub, Hantong [plans] to focus on regional cargo and commuter services under general aviation, as there is a huge gap in both areas,” Hantong GM Zhou Bingzhen said.

“The Chinese government is very much encouraging general aviation, recognizing the positive impact it can have on the country’s transportation system, making it just as important as commercial aviation,”  ATR CEO Christian Scherer said. “Our ATR 42-600, configured with 30 seats, [can accommodate] the general aviation market in China.”

Linda Blachly