FedEx’s order for 30 ATR 72-600Fs is interesting, especially in the light of last week’s Air & Sea Cargo Americas event in Miami. After Boeing’s market forecast update, several delegates asked the plane-maker about development plans for turboprop freighters, in the under-20-ton bracket.

E-commerce, with its supply of smaller packages, delivered frequently, seems to be triggering a newfound interest in smaller, cheaper-to-operate freighters. This appears to be particularly true in parts of Latin America, where limited transport options makes short, turboprop aircraft movements look rather attractive. Whether these are provided by Boeing, however, seems unlikely. Gregg Gildermann, cargo market analyst for Boeing – not a product development specialist – did his best with persistent questions, saying that Boeing looked at all opportunities, and would prefer not to lose any market share in freighters.  However, one could deduce that Boeing is not set to start making turboprop freighters any time soon.

ATR, however, is. FedEx’s order, which includes options for 20 more, will mark the first new ATR to be delivered directly from the factory in a freighter configuration, complete with large cargo door. It can carry palletised freight, or up to seven ULDs – a first for FedEx feeder aircraft. The first aircraft deliver in 2020, with six a year after that. Reuters has more detail.

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