ATR (Aerei da Trasporto Reionale / Avions de Transport Regional) was founded in 1981 as a joint venture between Aeritalia (now Leonardo) of Italy and Aerospatiale (now Airbus) of France. The company gained a modest following with their introduction of the "ATR 42" in 1985. Over 450 of the type followed in production and this design went on to serve as the basis for the larger "ATR 72" product.
Like the ATR 42, the ATR 72 incorporated a high-wing mainplane arrangement offering strong lifting properties and good short-field operation. A "T-style" tail unit was used and a rounded, slim fuselage brought all of the components together in a single sleek offering. The undercarriage was wheeled and retractable. The engines were slung under the wing mainplanes and installed within streamlined nacelles. First-flight of a prototype was on October 27th, 1988 and service introduction (through Finnair) followed on October 27th, 1989. Over 900 of the type have been produced to date (2017) and several major variants have emerged throughout its run. The design has seen service in both civilian and military sectors, the latter being the Italian Air Force, the Pakistan Navy and the Turkish Navy.
The original form was the ATR 72-100 which incorporated the ATR 72-101 of September 1989 powered by 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PW124B engines and featuring two crew access doors along the fuselage sides. The ATR 72-102 arrived in late-1989 with the same engines but a cargo door fitted at front and a crew door at rear. The ATR 72-200 was offered with PW124B engines of 2,400 horsepower (each). The ATR 72-201 and ATR 72-202 were primary products of the group and both featured increased MTOW because of the engine change. The ATR 72-210 sported a larger cargo door for improved access and a switch was made to PW127 engines of 2,750 horsepower (each). The powerplants gave the aircraft better "hot and high" performance and was fitted to both the ATR 72-211 and ATR 72-212 models of late 1992.
The ATR 72-212A, appearing in early 1997, was offered with a choice of engines - PW127F or PW127M. Each engine turned six-bladed propellers and performance was improved as a result (including MTOW). Additional benefits were added to the cockpit to help streamline operations. The ATR 72-500 was originally showcased as the ATR 72-500. A version with slightly different equipment was seen as the ATR 72-600.
The ATR 72-212A
The ATR 72-212A is crewed by two and seats 70 passengers. Overall length is 89 feet with a wingspan of 88.8 feet and a height of 25 feet. Empty weight is 28,682lb against a MTOW of 50,705lb. Performance includes a cruise speed of 315 mph, a range out to 950 miles and a service ceiling of 25,000 feet. Rate-of-climb is 1,355 feet-per-minute.
The ATR 72 ASW variant was built to serve as a maritime (over water) patrol platform in military spheres. The design was built atop the framework of the ATR 72-212A offering and held provision for various navy-centric armament such as anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and depth charges. Beyond their given submarine-hunting capabilities, the aircraft could also be used in the Search And Rescue (SAR) role when needed.
The ATR 80 was a follow-up model intended to seat more passengers (78). A pair of Allison AE2100 turboprop engines were to power the aircraft. This project did not see much advancement.
The ATR 72 Today
The ATR 72 family continues in active service with various global operators. Its flying has, however, been marred by accidents - the first major one recorded in October of 1994 when an American Eagle flight crashed in Indiana (USA) killing all aboard. More recently, on February 4th, 2015, an ATR 72 operating under the banner of TransAsia Airways crashed into the Keelung River of Taipei - just fifteen of the 58 aboard survived. The devastating accident was caught on camera.