Australia’s Skywest Airlines today took delivery of its first ATR 72-500, which is also the first ATR 72 aircraft to operate in Australia. Skywest Airlines will operate its new ATR fleet on behalf of Virgin Australia as part of a 10-year agreement signed recently between the two airlines to create a new regional network. Today’s delivery is the first of four ATR 72-500s and four ATR 72-600s, plus five options, ordered earlier this year by leasing company, Avation PLC. The remaining three ATR 72-500s will be delivered this year, while the four ATR 72-600s will enter into service in 2012. All aircraft will display the new white and red livery of Virgin Australia.
Initially the new ATR fleet will operate on Australia’s east coast, serving regional routes from Brisbane to Gladstone and Port Macquarie. This regional network will expand in 2011 and 2012 with the addition of new destinations. The ATR 72s, which will replace Virgin Australia’s Embraer E-170s, are configured with 68 seats and fitted with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines.
Jeff Chatfield, Executive Chairman of Avation PLC and Skywest Airlines, said; “We are proud to be contributing to the expansion of Virgin Australia and the growth of regional aviation across the country. ATRs have proven themselves in tough environments featuring unrivalled performances, leading edge comfort and an unmatched reliability. These are the right aircraft for our passengers and our airline, and a great asset for our leasing company, Avation PLC.”
Filippo Bagnato, Chief Executive Officer of ATR, added; “The introduction and entry into service of the ATR 72 in Australia is an important milestone for ATR. Our new client and partners will benefit from the fuel-efficiency, environmental friendliness and low operating costs of the new ATRs. While contributing to the further expansion of regional air connectivity in Australia, these new ATRs will also play a key role in feeding traffic to Virgin Australia’s domestic and international operations, and will offer the highest standard of comfort for passengers.”