A new era of air transport commenced today in Australia when Virgin Australia launched commercial services with the first of its new ATR 72-500 turboprop airliners.
The inaugural flight of Virgin Australia's first turboprop - and Australia's first ATR 72 - was also the airline's first flight from Brisbane to the regional industrial city of Gladstone.
And it was a milestone for ATR Regional Aircraft, the world's largest manufacturer of 50-74 seat turboprop airliners, adding Australia to an already-extensive list of Asia-Pacific markets where ATR 72-500 aircraft operate.
Virgin Australia flight DJ 1711 departed Brisbane at 10.30am.
Perth-based Skywest will operate the new ATR services on behalf of Virgin Australia, with a fleet of eight 68-seat ATR 72 aircraft.
The airline has orders for four of the series 500 model - three of which have now been delivered - and four of the next-generation series 600 model.
Skywest also has options to acquire another five ATR 72-600s, all of which it will operate for Virgin.
In addition to Gladstone, Virgin will operate the ATRs on a range of other regional or short haul primary routes, including Brisbane-Port Macquarie and Sydney-Port Macquarie, commencing this Wednesday, 19 October.
This will be followed by routes including Sydney-Canberra and another new market, Brisbane - Emerald.
Filippo Bagnato, Chief Executive Officer of ATR, said: "Virgin Australia needed an aircraft type which would provide an economic entry into new regional routes, and cost-effective expansion of a range of existing markets. The ATR 72 is that aircraft, offering both the lowest cost and the greenest option in the regional segment, while delivering a spacious, quiet cabin environment for passengers. We are delighted that Virgin Australia and Skywest have selected our aircraft for the next step in Virgin's growth strategy."
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