ATR has delivered its first new model ATR-72-600 to Royal Air Maroc. The new aircraft are more efficient that prior models, and compete with the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 in the turboprop sector.
Perhaps the biggest change for ATR is the interior. The new Armonia cabin, developed by the Italian design firm Giugiaro Design, provides a striking contrast to the somewhat utilitarian interiors in the earlier ATR-72s that I’ve flown. With larger bins, and more modern seats, the ATR models have now moved from the 1980s into the 21st century, even to center and seat-back entertainment systems, bringing them in line with the jets and fleet standards for brand commonality.
Turboprops have always suffered from NVH – Noise, vibration and harshness. But those drawbacks have largely been mitigated with newer designs, which utilizes noise cancellation technology and anti-vibration technologies to reduce vibrations cause by air from the propeller striking against the fuselage. Today, modern turboprops provide a ride comparable to jets. In addition to the interior, a full glass cockpit and new engines also provide significant improvements to the new -600 ATR models over their prior offerings.
More fuel efficient than jets for shorter regional routes, turboprops are making a comeback in the market, especially with the currently high fuel prices that are not projected to abate anytime soon. With a new focus on interiors and comfort, rather than simply utility, this market is coming of age.