Interview with Jürgen Lebacs, CEO and President of ATR Americas
Consulate General of France in Miami (e-Toile): Thank you Mr. Jürgen Lebacs, Managing Director and President of ATR Americas, for answering our questions. First of all, could you introduce the company ATR to our readers?
Jürgen Lebacs: ATR is the world’s leader aircraft manufacturer on the market for below-90-seat regional aircraft. Since its creation, ATR has sold over 1,500 aircraft. ATR turboprop aircraft equip the fleets of some 200 airlines in nearly 100 countries. ATR is an equal partnership between two major European aeronautics players, Airbus and Leonardo. Based in Toulouse, France, ATR is well established worldwide with a large customer support and sales network. This includes a Sales, Customer Service and Training center, as well as a spare parts warehouse, in Miami, Florida.
e-Toile: ATR, which is based in Toulouse, France, settled down in Miami three years ago. Why did the company decide to relocate its American subsidiary in South Florida?
Jürgen Lebacs: Miami is an optimal hub to handle our customer support activities for the whole Americas. Note that our presence in Latin America and the Caribbean has doubled in ten years, from 80 to 160 ATR aircraft in operation, plus some other 30 to come. We aim to be as close as possible to all our customers. In this sense, Miami is a perfect location and this is why we decided to move our American subsidiary (ATR North America) from Washington D.C. to South Florida and changed the name to ATR Americas.
e-Toile: What are the main assets of ATR’s aircraft and why is the product well adapted to the US market?
Jürgen Lebacs: ATR aircraft are the most fuel efficient regional aircraft on the market. The 50-seater ATR 42 and the 70-seater ATR 72 burn up to 40% less fuel when compared to an equivalent-sized regional jet. Their latest version, ATR 42-600 and ATR 72-600 feature the most modern technologies both in navigation aid tools and in passenger comfort and experience, thus clearly fighting against the “old-fashioned” image that turboprops can have among some passengers. ATR aircraft are also outstandingly versatile, as they can operate at small airports and take-off and land from very short runways.
In the US, some 400 regional routes have been cut in the last decade, representing a substantial decrease of air connectivity for some small communities. Note also that one third of the routes operated by regional jets in the US are below 300 miles, a distance where the operational and economic advantages of the ATRs are just unrivalled. And add to this that there is in the US a large fleet of over 300 turboprop aircraft with an average age of over 20 years. These are clear reasons to believe that the newest ATR -600 series aircraft have an outstanding potential to make regional aviation remain affordable and in many cases even available here in the US.
e-Toile: In February, ATR opens a training center in Miami. Could you describe this new facility and indicate how many pilots are going to be trained each year at this new location?
Jürgen Lebacs: This new facility is equipped with a brand new Full Flight Simulator (FFS) for ATR -600 series aircraft, provided by CAE. The Training Center is also equipped with an ultramodern Flight Panel Trainer (FPT), a sophisticated LCD touch panel based flight deck simulator. We will provide the same training courses as in our headquarters in Toulouse, France: type rating; difference course, recurrent training, instructor course, Performance-Based Navigation training…We have received certification from the FAA and from Europe’s EASA earlier in 2017 and we are ready to start.
The new ATR Training Center, located at the Airbus training premises, is especially oriented to current and future ATR operators on the American continent. We will train some 500 pilots per year, providing some 7,000 training hours in the new FFS.
The opening of this new training facility at one of the key hubs in America falls in line with ATR’s customer support strategy aiming to provide pilot training solutions close to its customers.
The new Miami facility brings to five the number of ATR training centers, after Toulouse, Paris, Singapore and Johannesburg. ATR currently delivers over 100,000 training hours and, with Miami, will train over 4,000 pilots each year on its different programs.
Due to the global expansion of air transport, airlines are expected to need 600,000 new pilots within the next 20 years. As the world reference in the regional market, we have to provide and anticipate solutions for regional carriers. The Training Center in Miami is a natural step in our aim of being as close as possible to our operators in the region, and a strategic move to reenter the US market.