Turboprop maker ATR is increasing its presence in Japan, looking to capitalize on demand for more regional connections in the post-COVID environment.
ATR planes have been flying in Japan for six years and there are currently 15 in operation with three airlines. The largest operator is Japan Air Commuter (JAC), which, according to data from ch-aviation.com, has a fleet of 11 aircraft, consisting of nine ATR 42-600s and two ATR 72-600s. JAC received its last ATR 42-600 in May, with the first leg of the France-Japan ferry flight using a blend including Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Japan is committed to reducing CO2 emissions and preserving its biodiversity, and ATR supports this by connecting communities and businesses across the Japanese archipelago in a sustainable and responsible way.
Sustainability and connection are ATR’s key messages
Japan Air Commuter’s latest ATR 42-600 has a special durability livery. Photo: ATR
The new ATR has a specific livery representing the leaves of Kaikouzu, the tree of Kagoshima prefecture. Leaves are the Japanese symbol for nature conservation and represent JAC’s commitment to connecting areas that co-exist with nature. The airline flies to several World Natural Heritage Sites in Japan, including Yakushima, Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima and Okinawa, as well as many other wildlife-rich and diverse regions.
Two other Japanese airlines operate ATRs, Amakusa Airlines with one ATR 42-600 and Hokkaido Air System (HAS), part of the Japan Airlines Group, with three ATR 42-600s. While the current ATR fleet is small, ATR CEO Stefano Bortoli says he can see 100 ATRs flying in Japan in a few years. He asserts that “air transport is crucial for the archipelago where air links are essential for travel and internal transport”, adding:
“We want to help ensure that aviation contributes to a prosperous future for Japan by connecting its regions in ever more sustainable and affordable ways. Most new ATRs will replace older, less efficient models and connect islands and remote areas to major cities.
ATR STOL turboprop attracts interest in Japan
PNG Air is the launch customer of the ATR STOL and a current user of the ATR 72-600. Photo: PNG Air
Japan has two regional airlines with ATRs on order, Oriental Air Bridge (ORC) with two ATR 42-600s and Toki Air with two ATR 72-600s. Toki Air plans to fly to Sado Island, off Niigata, which has a runway of just 890 meters (2,900 feet). Toki plans to take the new ATR 42-600S, the ATR short take-off and landing (STOL) version that can land on runways as short as 800 meters. ATR says there are ten airports in Japan with short airstrips where the turboprop STOL variant can land and keep these communities connected to the rest of the country.
Japan’s sustainable development goal is to reduce emissions by 46% by 2030. With ATRs consuming 40% less fuel and emitting 40% fewer emissions than a regional jet, turboprops can play a key role in achieving the national goal. According to ATR, the introduction of the new Pratt & Whitney PW127XT engine, which offers a 3% improvement in fuel efficiency and the ability to use 100% SAF, means that the durability gains will be even greater.
Turboprops have played a major role in keeping remote communities connected during the pandemic, especially in Asia-Pacific regions. Many remote communities and small islands have only air connections and depend on aircraft, especially turboprops, for their needs. Keeping them sustainably connected is a bonus, and ATR has the right plane to do that, as does Embraer when its new turboprop arrives.