Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR has signed up a launch customer for the short take-off and landing (STOL) version of its ATR 42 aircraft. PNG Air ordered three ATR 42-600S at the Singapore Airshow on 11 February 2020.
“When looking at options to replace our existing STOL fleet, the ATR -600 family’s maintenance costs and commonality were hugely attractive. This commonality will lead to greater efficiency in terms of both spare parts and pilot training.
“We are also looking forward to introducing passengers travelling to and from our destinations with short runways to the comfort of the modern ATR -600 series cabin.”
Some background on PNG Air
PNG Air is a Port Moresby based airline. It was formerly known as Milne Bay Air. It flies to 21 destinations around Papua New Guinea plus Merauke and Sentani in Indonesia. In addition to its scheduled RPT network, PNG Air does freight flights and fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) and ad-hoc charter services. Mining and resource companies are significant customers.
There are 15 turboprop aircraft in PNG Air’s fleet comprising eight Bombardier Dash 8-100s and seven ATR 72-600s. The Dash 8-100s are due to be phased out and will be replaced by these new ATRs.
Visits to the airline’s two Connections Lounges (in Lae and Mt Hagen) are fine trophies for lounge lizards who prefer the more obscure ports of call.
Flying in Papua New Guinea is challenging
Flying in Papua New Guinea can be particularly challenging. Much of the country is mountainous and isolated. Transport infrastructure is undeveloped. Many towns and villages do not have road links and rely on air transportation.
There are over 500 registered airports in Papua New Guinea but only 26 of them have sealed runways. Most of the runways, sealed or otherwise, are between 800 and 1000 meters in length. These factors call for certain types of aircraft and highly skilled pilots.
Challenging conditions suit the ATR 42-600S
This is where the STOL version of the ATR 42-600 comes into play. According to ATR, the aircraft can take off and land in standard flight conditions on runways as short as 800 meters. Stefano Bortoli, ATR Chief Executive Officer, said in Singapore;
“The decision to replace their existing STOL fleet with our ATR 42-600S represents an intelligent acquisition and is a perfect example of why this aircraft is such an important solution for the regional aviation market.
“People and businesses around the world depend on the connectivity that ATR aircraft provide. Without a viable STOL replacement, PNG Air’s passengers would face significant challenges to their way of life.
PNG Air boss a fan of ATR
Already owning seven ATR 72-600s, Paul Abbot is a fan of the aircraft. He said;
“Since incorporating the ATR 72-600 into our fleet PNG Air has gone from strength to strength, benefitting from its unrivalled efficiency, as it burns 40% less fuel and emits 40% less CO2 than a similar-sized regional jet.’
ATR says its 50 seat 42-600S aircraft have the same operating costs as a traditional 30 seat turboprop aircraft.
Since acquiring the first of the ATRs in 2015, PNG Air has won over 40% of the domestic market and proved to be a thorn in the side of national carrier Air Niugini.
With the new aircraft, PNG Air wants to grow this market share by 25%, targeting new routes that are suited to an aircraft of this size.
An ATR spokesperson told Simple Flying that certification is expected for second half 2022 and deliveries will follow after.
It’s good to see an alternative to Air Niugini in Papua New Guinea. The national carrier has a reputation for high fares and aging aircraft. New planes and a little competition offer a lot of benefits for a country highly dependent on aviation.