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EghtesadOnline: Regional turboprop manufacturer ATR is hopeful that worsening relations between the US administration and Iran will not hinder its business ties with Tehran.

ATR delivered eight aircraft to Iran Air in 2017 and plans to deliver a further 12 by the end of this year, as part of Iran’s effort to replace its antiquated civil air fleet.

The Franco-Italian manufacturer won its Iran Air order following the lifting of western sanctions in return for Iran rolling back its nuclear program, ATWOnline reported.

The unhappiness of US President Donald Trump’s administration with that deal, which has seen Washington recently impose new sanctions on the Middle East nation, potentially puts the continued supply of western aircraft to Iran at risk, but ATR CEO Christian Scherer hopes ATR will be allowed to continue to work with Tehran, according to Financial Tribune.

Iran Air is using the new ATRs to revitalize domestic routes.

Scherer said this regional development is very powerful for them and it’s frankly very benign from a geopolitical and security aspect.

“So we are hopeful at ATR that our business opportunities with the Iranians will go unchallenged,” he said.

“There isn’t any more powerful tool for economic emancipation than communications.”

Speaking at the ceremony announcing the turboprop manufacturer’s annual results in Toulouse, the ATR chief said, “When they started taking delivery, they realized they could fly these aircraft much more [than their counterparts] because they were new and reliable, and actually worked.”

One hurdle to overcome was training sufficient Iranian pilots on the new aircraft, so ATR dispatched a number of instructors to fly the line with their Iranian counterparts from the start of operations to assist and offer some on-the-job training.

Scherer added that training has also become an issue in India.

There, operators are having a hard time finding pilots for their fast-expanding regional networks. A government initiative, the so-called regional connectivity scheme, is spurring that growth.

But the Indian civil aviation authority, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, is putting “a tight oversight on the influx of new pilots”, Scherer explained.

To qualify, a foreign pilot needs a months-long procedure to obtain a visa and must submit to health checks.

“Overall, the regional market is experiencing a pilot shortage, both in terms of candidates and training capabilities,” Scherer said.

ATR is addressing the problem by investing in simulators.

Two ATR-owned devices will be added this year to the existing network. One will be located in Europe, the other one in the US or Asia.

In Japan, JAL has ordered a simulator to be installed in the country. In Taiwan, another one is to be operated by Ansett.

“Despite uncertainties over the Iran nuclear deal following [US] President Donald Trump’s statements, our delivery schedule to Iran Air remains unchanged,” Scherer said on the sidelines of Dubai Airshow 2017 back in November.

“Iran is very suitable for ATR, because there are a multitude of small and medium cities with a territory to open up. In parallel with Iran Air, Aseman Airlines is the operator of the ATR 42 and we are in discussion to have the company switch to ATR 72,” he added.

The numbers “72” and “42” are derived from the aircraft’s standard seating configuration in a passenger-carrying configuration, which could seat 72-78 and 40-52 passengers respectively.