Aircraft of the week and short review of expanding Asian aviation industry:

Registered as C-GPBR for Winnipeg-based airline Calm Air International, this ATR 72-202 is different from later ATR 72 versions, as it is powered by 2 2522 eshp (shaft horsepower) Pratt & Whitney PW124B turboprops, and uses a 4-bladed Hamilton Standard propellor. Later versions of the ATR 72 mainly use more powerful PW127F and Ms (repectively inroduced in 1996 and 2007, compared to the PW124B, which was introduced in 1988), which both have 2619 eshp, and are equipped with a 6-bladed Hamilton Standard propellor. It has operated on 3 continents and is one of over 1000 ATR 72s to have been produced since production of the aircraft began in 1988.

Produced in ATR’s Toulouse assembly unit, C-GPBR was first delivered to German regional airline NFD Luftverkehrs AG in September 1991, where a total of 11 ATR 42s and 2 ATR 72s were already in service. NFD Luftverkehrs AG operated a total of 19 ATR 42/72 series aircraft from 1988 to 1992, when it merged with RFG Regionalflug to form Eurowings. It was one of 18 aircraft to have been transferred to Eurowings, the exception to this being D-BATA, which was sent to Danish carrier Cimber in 1989, and is still active with Toll Aviation (a night logistics airline) in Australia. After 12 years of operations with Eurowings, C-GPBR was let from Eurowings to Siegerland-based (North-Rhine Westphalia, Western Germany) charter and ACMI airline Avanti Air, which has operated 8 ATR 42/72 series aircraft since it began operations in 1994, and now operates 1 Fokker F100. A boom in aircraft leasing within Germany occurred in the 1990s following the dissolution of communist East Germany, which moved the capital back to Berlin from Bonn in West Germany. In 2007, C-GPBR was sublet to Thai carrier Bangkok Airways, which still operates 13 ATR 72s. Bangkok Airways has been operating since 1968, and is one of many Southeast Asian airline to use the ATR 42/72 series on short international or domestic flights, such as Malaysian carrier Firefly, which operates 12 ATR 72-500s. In previous decades, it made sense to operate ATRs in Southeast Asia, as they aren’t as costly to maintain Airbus as A320s, but Asia is quickly becoming economically developped, so now has the possibility to buy jet-powered aircraft.

From 2017 to 2019, Asia became so full with airlines that both of 2018’s South Korean start-ups, Air Pohang and Air Philip didn’t even survive a year. Myanmar lost 3 airlines in 2018, Thailand 2 airlines in 2018, after having lost another 2 in 2017. Cambodia too, lost a carrier in 2018 and 2019, despite having gained 2 in 2017 and 1 in 2018, one of which has already ceased operations. Japan underwent the acquisition of Vanilla Air by Peach Aviation in 2019, both low-cost carriers owned by the largest airline in Japan, All Nippon Airways (ANA). Now, attempts are being made to merge the 2 largest carriers in South Korea, Korean Airlines and Asiana Airlines. It was to this extent that the Asian aviation industry was being inflated before 2020, and it shows that there is a large accumulation of capital in Asia. Note that in countries like China and Japan, ATR series aircraft are non-existent, whereas in Europe, many small carriers continue to use ATRs to this day.

In April 2008, C-GPBR was returned from lease to Avanti Air, before operating for Air Berlin from late February to early May in 2010. It must be said that although turboprops and jet-powered aircraft may serve many airlines in their lifespans, they also spend a lot of time in storage, being maintained for future use. Avanti Air is not a regular operator of flights and mainly maintains and leases aircraft on a short-term basis to large airlines or individuals. It has very little reason to operate flights on its own behalf, due to where it is located, so its aircraft spend a lot of time waiting until they are needed. After C-GPBR’s span with Air Berlin, it was leased back to Air Avanti before being leased to Austrian airline Intersky (which had previously leased an ATR 42 from Air Avanti in 2010, which is now with Calm Air) in April 2013. Intersky was based at a German regional airport in Friedrichshafen and operated a total of 5 ATR 42/72 series aircraft in its history as well as 5 De Havilland DHC-8-300 Canadian turboprps before ceasing operations in 2015. C-GPBR was leased back to Avanti Air in December 2013 before leaving Avanti Air (which was contracted by Eurowings to lease aircraft, therefore Eurowings lostresponsibility for the aircraft after its move) permanently for Canadian full-service airline Calm Air International (which offers scheduled, charter and cargo services) in September 2014. Calm Air International operates 13 ATR 42/72 series aircraft as well as 1 Dornier Do-328JET (don’t confuse this with the aircraft in our previous “Aircraft of the week”, which was a Dornier Do-328). We have seen that an Avanti Air ATR 42 also got transferred to Calm Air International, which is proof that some aircraft lessors make package aircraft deals with customers years in advance. Full service airlines know which aircraft they will need a long time before they will use it, which type it has to be and in what quantity. This is because they take into account aircraft lifespans and that they know when to retire aircraft and when to lease them. A lot of this structuring is pre-planned to allow easier management. Many companies prioritise signing contracts years in advance, which, in the case of airlines, is to clarify the aircraft’s actual owner in the event of a crash, as well as to give up financial responsibility of the physical product (the aircraft), which is necessary in the airline industry, as there are so many ways that your airline can fail (economic crises, fuel supply problems, aircraft manufacturer’s bankruptcy, mismanagement, hijacking). C-GPBR is currently 29.6 years old and continuing its life in the brisky, cold Canadian skies. 27th of March 2021.

Afficher l’image source
Our friend, C-GPBR, in a fancy Avanti Air livery with its pre-Calm Air International registration number, D-ANFC.

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