While the success and large order backlog of the ATR 72 turboprop is well established, ATR insists that the smaller, 50-seat ATR 42 remains a viable product.

At an ATR media briefing in Paris this spring, CEO Patrick de Castelbajac said that around 30 aircraft in the company’s 280-strong backlog was for the ATR 42. Recent airline trends, including the up-gauging of fleets, has seen greater interest in the 70-74-seater ATR 72, but de Castelbajac said several reasons made him confident that the ATR 42 would retain a place in the company’s product portfolio.

US customers remain interested in the ATR 42 because its size puts it within labor scope-clause limitations. Last year saw the largest-ever order for the smaller variant, with lessor Nordic Aviation Capital ordering 25 ATR 42-600s plus 50 options.

“I see orders for it going up, rather than down,” de Castelbajac said.

Unlike its larger counterpart, the ATR 42 will not benefit from the arrival of the new Pratt & Whitney PW127N engine, which brings a 4.5% increase in take-off power for the ATR 72, improving performance in hot-and-high conditions.

The CEO said that there had been requests for better short runway performance and that ATR’s engineering department, together with those of Airbus and Alenia, were sifting through suggestions from customers to further improve this.

Once the best options had been identified, de Castelbajac said, “I will go to the [airline] industry and say: ‘Are you willing to pay for this?’ ”

However, unlike the ATR 72, ATR will not attempt to increase seating density on the smaller aircraft, sales director John Moore said. The ATR 72’s maximum capacity will grow to 78 seats through a combination of the new slimline seats introduced into the -600 series versions of both models, a reduction in seat pitch from 29-30 inches to 28 inches and changes to the galley configuration.

Among other improvements being looked at by ATR is better air-conditioning in the cabin, following feedback from customers who use both models of the aircraft for inter-island operations in the tropics.

Moore said that studies were underway to supplement the air-conditioning system to offset the frequent opening of the forward and aft passenger doors when the aircraft was on the ground. Inter-island sectors were frequently so short that the aircraft interior did not have a chance to cool down before the next stop.