Did you know that exactly 34 years ago today, the ATR 72 made its maiden flight? One year later, on October 27, 1989, the aircraft entered service with the Finnish airline Finnair.
Looking to build a regional aircraft with an increased passenger capacity compared to the ATR 42, the French-Italian planemaker came up with a stretched version called the ATR 72. The number 72 refers to the number of passengers the plane can carry.
ATR was able to build the ATR 72 so quickly and get it to market because the ATR 42 and ATR 72 share the same production line. The only difference is that the ATR 72s fuselage is longer and has larger wings. The plane’s engines, propellors, and cockpits are the same, meaning pilots qualified to fly the ATR 42 could immediately fly the ATR 72 without additional training. For operators, this was a huge selling point, as was the fact that both aircraft shared 90% of the same spare parts.
ATR 72s are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines
Early ATR 72s were powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW124B engines, while the newer PW127 engine powers later-built aircraft. In the fall of 2007, ATR introduced the ART-72-600 with more powerful engines, a new glass cockpit, and various other improvements. The planes also required less maintenance and were cheaper to operate thanks to reduced fuel burn and operating costs.
With strong demand for the new ATR 72-600, the company decided to build a more modern assembly line and add hangar space at its factory in Toulouse, France. The new facility expanded ATRs footprint four times, allowing them to build up to 120 planes a year.
Most ATR 72s board passengers from the rear of the aircraft, while the front door is used for loading and unloading cargo. Finnair, an early customer for the plane, ordered aircraft with a passenger front door to use the jetways at Helsinki Airport (HEL).
ATR lists various reasons why airlines should operate the ATR 72, which are:
- It can be used in any geographic location in the world.
- The ATR 72 can fly in extreme cold (-49 °F) and extremely hot (+122 °F) temperatures.
- The ATR 72 can take off and land on short runways. Take-off distance (MTOW, ISA, SL) 4,314 feet, landing distance (MLW, SL) 3,001 feet.
- The ATR 72 can land on runways as narrow as 45 feet.
- The ATR 72 is an excellent choice where aircraft need a steep approach of up to six degrees. London City Airport (LCY) has an approach of 5.5 degrees.
- The ATR 72 can operate from gravel runways like the ones used in northern areas of Canada.
- The ATR 72 has an ETOPS rating of 120 minutes.
- The ATR 72 can land in 45-knot crosswinds.
An ATR flew this year using 100% SAF
In June this year, Swedish airline Braathens Regional Airlines used an ATR 72 for the first-ever commercial flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Flights powered by SAF reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 80% compared to fossil fuel over the lifecycle, depending on feedstock.
Specification and general characteristics of the ATR 72-600:
- Crew: 4 (captain, first officer, 2 flight attendants)
- Capacity: 72 seats
- Length: 89 feet 2 inches
- Wingspan: 88 feet 9 inches
- Width: 8 feet 5 inches
- Height: 25 feet 1 inch
- Wing area: 657 square feet
- Empty weight: 29,346 lbs
- Max takeoff weight: 50,706 lbs
- Fuel capacity: 11,000 lbs
- Max payload: 16,313 lbs
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127XT-M , 1,846 kW (2,475 shp) each
- Propellers: 6-bladed Hamilton Standard 568F, 3.93 m (12 ft 11 in) diameter
- Cruise speed: 320 mph
- Range: 949 miles
- Service ceiling: 25,000 feet
- Rate of climb: 1,355 feet/minute