ATR (Avions de Transport Regional / Aereo da Transporto Regionale) is the result of a consortium set up by Aeritalia and Aerospatiale in July 1981. In the late 70's both companies had plans for regional transports in the 40 seat category. In line, and for similar reasons to many conjoint projects at that time, they joined forces. The result was a clean sheet design aimed at simplicity and economy.
The initial aircraft, the ATR42 first flew in August 1984, and was certified in September of the following year. The design was was a highwing twin turboprop with a T-tail and undercarriage carried in fairings on the fuselage. The aircraft was powered by 1800 shp PW120 engines. Contruction made extensive use of composites, primarily in the form of a kevlar/nomex sandwich. Initially set up to carry 42-46 passengers, the ATR42-300 can carry 50. The launch customer in Europe was Air Littoral.
A stretched version, the ATR72 was announced in 1985, and this flew for the first time on October 27, 1988. Incorporating an extra 4.5m in the fuselage, capacity was increased to 74 passengers. The wingspan was increased by 2.5m, and the engines changed to the Canadian made 2,400shp PW124B. The fuselage and tail are produced in Italy, while the wings, undercarriage, and engine cowls are built in France. The launch customer was KarAir in Finland.
Both aircraft have been successful, with more than 450 in service by the mid-1990's. Designed to be quiet and reliable, with an eye to economy on short stage lengths, the ATR was on the list when New Zealand's Mt. Cook Airlines began considering a replacement for the HS-748 in the 1990's. A number of demonstration aircraft passed through New Zealand between 1991 and 1995 including the Bae ATP (later the Jetstream 61), Canadair RJ, Saab 2000, and the ATR42 (F-ODYD of Air Caledonie passing through in June 1992) and ATR72 (F-OHJA of Air Tahiti passing through in June 1995). The Fokker 50 and Dash 8 were also considered.
Mt. Cook Airlines announced the decision to order seven of the ATR72-212 on July 18, 1995. They went with the 'hot'n'high' PW127 powered version as best meeting their needs, and opted for a 66 seat configuration. The first aircraft (ZK-MCC c/n 464) arrived on Oct 5, 1995 having made the delivery flight from Tolouse in six days in the hands of Captain John Jones. The aircraft went into service on November 27 1995, having spent the interim being used for training and publicity flights. The last Mt. Cook HS-748 service occurred on February 17, 1996. Along with the passing of the 748, the Mt. Cook livery also ended. The ATR72's carry the Air New Zealand Link livery (Mt. Cook having been a wholly owned subsidiary of Air New Zealand since 1991), although the aircraft retain the legend Mt Cook Airlines, and the Mt. Cook Lily appears on the rear of the aircraft. The ATR72's have a high rate of utilisation, and are used on a mix of main trunk, regional, and tourist flights. One service was dropped with the introduction of the new aircraft - the Chatham Islands run.
At the end of 1998 Air New Zealand announced that the ATR72-212 aircraft would be replaced with ATR72-500 models during the period October 1999 to February 2000. The 66 seat configuration would be retained, but gains are expected in noise and economy.
The Mt.Cook ATR72-212's are:
Last Update:- 30 November, 1999
© 1999 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved