By Denise A. Valdez
TURBOPROP aircraft manufacturer ATR said it is considering developing new planes that would make landing at night and on shorter runways easier, and expects a market for it in the Philippines.
In an e-mail to BusinessWorld on Monday, the European company said it would soon be launching a “ClearVision system” on its aircraft, a technology that would combine enhanced vision with synthetic vision.
“ATR is introducing a new option available on its aircraft, the ClearVision system, which it aims to have certified early next year,” said Christophe Potocki, ATR general manager for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“It will help pilots in the Philippines and elsewhere because it means they will be able to see better at night or during poor weather conditions,” he added.
Mr. Potocki also said the company might make a new version of its ATR 42, a short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft, that would be able to land on even shorter runways.
He said the “super STOL” would be crafted to have the capability to land on a runway as short as 800 meters.
“This will be useful in a country like the Philippines where you have many small airports with short runways. ATR will make a decision later this year on whether to develop the ‘super STOL,’” Mr. Potocki said.
If it pushes through, and airlines in the Philippines would acquire the product, it may open new routes in locations that have airports with shorter runways. This has been an issue that limits airlines from flying to certain destinations.
ATR said last year that flights to Masbate, San Jose, Mabalacat, Canayan, Zamboanga, Tagbilaran, Virac and Cotabato were opened because of ATR aircraft.
“Using ATR aircraft has also given Philippine carriers flexibility to bypass congested Manila Airport and develop more point-to-point services in the country linking second and third-tier cities direct rather than have all the domestic traffic routed through Manila,” Mr. Potocki said.
He noted there are many airports in the country that could not accommodate a jet aircraft because of runway length and minimal passenger volume.
“The Philippines has many beautiful islands that have great potential for tourism and economic development but to facilitate that, there needs to be regular air services to the island,” he added.
ATR also announced it is making a dedicated freighter, the ATR 72-600F freighters, which will be used first by FedEx Corp. It said e-commerce is pushing the company to venture into cargo aircraft as the demand for cargo planes grows.
“It means people are ordering goods through the internet that then need to be delivered via express post. Consumers expect to receive their goods quickly, which means demand for express air cargo is growing,” Mr. Potocki said.
Last week, Cebu Pacific ordered for the conversion of two of its ATR 72-500 passenger planes into freighters, noting the Philippines’ e-commerce businesses is growing fast.