FedEx Express and French aircraft manufacturer ATR have announced a major contract for the firm purchase of 30 ATR 72-600Fs plus 20 options. The new cargo version of the ATR 72-600, for which FedEx is launch customer, will enter into service in 2020.
The aircraft will have new windowless fuselage and is equipped with a forward Large Cargo Door (LCD) and a rear upper hinged cargo door.
The new freighter, which will support both bulk cargo and Unit Load Device (ULD) configurations, will have a bulk capacity of 74.6 m3. When in ULD mode, the aircraft can accommodate up to seven LD3 containers, or five 88” x 108”, or nine 88” x 62” pallets. The aircraft is also equipped with new reinforced floor panels.
FedEx Express is an existing operator of ATR aircraft, with the ATR 42-300F, 42-320F and 72-200F already in its fleet. However, FedEx' current feeder aircraft do not carry containers or palletised freight, so the new features of the 72-600F will help the company better serve customers in the air freight market where palletised shipments are the norm.
David Cunningham, President and CEO of FedEx Express, said that ATR aircraft have been successfully operating in FedEx service for many years.
"We worked with ATR to develop this new aircraft, which includes special features to help us grow our business, especially in the air freight market where shipments are larger and heavier. The 72-600F will play an important role in our global network by helping us deliver fast, economical service to small and medium sized markets,” he added.
According to ATR’s Chief Executive Officer Christian Scherer, "the ATR 72-600F is the only new large regional aircraft available on the market for freighter operations. We are convinced that, with its use by FedEx Express, it will become the new benchmark for regional air cargo operations.”
ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Italian company Leonardo and the FedEx order signals ATR's return to the lucrative U.S. market for the first time in over two decades. Analysts also noted that the sale to FedEx may also boost the recently lacklustre second-hand market for its turboprop fleet.
Nol van Fenema