Australian carrier Skywest Airlines has taken delivery of its first ATR 72-500, the very first ATR 72 aircraft 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 both airlines to create a regional network for Virgin Australia.
The delivery follows the signing of a contract for 4 ATR 72-500s and 4 ATR 72-600s, plus 5 options, earlier this year between ATR and the leasing company Avation PLC. The remaining 3 ATR 72-500s will be delivered this year, while the 4 ATR 72-600s will enter into service in 2012.
All of these ATR 72s will wear the new white and red livery of Virgin Australia.
Initially, the new ATR fleet will operate on Australia’s east coast, including new regional routes from Brisbane to Gladstone and Brisbane to Port Macquarie. This regional network will expand progressively in 2011 and 2012 with the addition of new destinations.
The fuel-efficient ATR 72s will progressively replace Virgin Australia’s E-170 regional jets while enabling the introduction of new services and additional frequencies on existing routes.
The new ATR aircraft are configured with 68 new-generation seats with a 31-inch seat pitch, and fitted with the latest 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.”
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