Aérospatiale/Alenia ATR42 & ATR72
Aérospatiale and Alenia jointly developed the ATR42 commuter aircraft in the 1980s, as a response to the deregulated air transport market in the USA. The 45-50 seat ATR42 was later joined by the longer ATR72. The aircraft can especially be recognised by large vertical stabiliser and associated dorsal fin, with two bents in the leading edge. Other characteristics are the short landing gear, retracting in pods underneath the fuselage, and the pointed tail cone. The cabin windows are rectangular with rounded corners.
The different versions of the ATR family can be recognised by:
- the length of the fuselage
- the number of propeller blades
- the shape of the propeller blades
- the shape of the propeller spinners
- the size of the rudder
- the presence and size of a large cargo door
- the presence of a large cabin door in the front fuselage
- the absence of cabin windows
ATR42-200, ATR42-300 & ATR42-320
These are all similar in appearance from the outside and only differ in exact engine model and operating weights. They have in common a short fuselage and four blade, non-curved propellers.
Here is an ATR42-320, as example of the first generation of short body ATR42s. You can clearly see that the propellers have four blades.
ATR42-300F & ATR42-320F
When converted to dedicated freighter, by the removal of seats, installation of a cargo floor and replacement of cabin windows by metal plugs, the ATR42 is called ATR42-300F or ATR42-320F. The original front bagage door is used to (un)load the cargo.
The cargo conversion of ATR42-300/320 lacks cabin windows, so it is easily recognisable. (photo: Alan Lebeda/WikiMedia)
ATR42-400, ATR42-500 & ATR42-600
The second generation ATR42 has different engines than the first generation, but more importantly six blade props with curved blades. Additionally, the -600 (officially still designated ATR42-500) has an updated avionics suite.
Able to operate from short runways the ATR42-600S (with S for STOL) has a larger rudder than the standard -600. The area is increased at both the trailing edge and the top.
ATR72-101 & ATR72-201
This is a stretched ATR42, which looks otherwise basically the same as the baseline model. The subtypes -101 and -201 have in common a normal cabin entry door in the forward fuselage (on the left and right side), in addition to the one in the rear fuselage. Also common are the four blade props, with non-curved blades. Both versions are externally the same and only differ in operating weights.
The ATR42-201 shown here has a normal forward cabin door and one at the back. A smaller emergency exit is under the wings. Note the four blade, non-curved props.
ATR72-101F & ATR72-201F
When converted to freighter the ATR72-101F and -201F have no cabin windows anymore, and a large cargo door in the left front fuselage. This door is wider than on the ATR72-102F & -202F.
The ATR72-201F has a wider cargo door than the ATR72-202F. The non-curved propellers are clearly visible.
ATR72-102 & ATR72-202
The ATR72-102 and -202 are the same as the ATR72-101 and -201 except for a different door configuration. It has a bagage/cargo door in the left forward fuselage instead of a cabin door. Next to the cargo door is a small emergency exit. Like the -101 and -201 the -102 and -202 differ in operating weights.
The cargo/bagage door is not very visible on this ATR72-202, but you can clearly see the small emergency exit at the first cabin window.
ATR72-102F & ATR72-202F
These are the cargo converions of the ATR72-102 and -202. As these aircraft already have a cargo door no dedicated one is added. This door is less wide though than on the ATR72-101F and -201F. Of course the cabin windows have been replaced by metal plugs.
The ATR72-202F retains the cargo door of the ATR72-202. This is less wide than on the ATR72-201F and thus a key feature. (photo: Aero Icarus/WikiMedia)
The ATR72-211 is essentially the same on the outside as the ATR72-101/201. The different engines can accept other props though. So when the ATR72 has four blade propellers with curved blades and larger spinners, and a forward cabin entry door on both sides, you can be sure it is an ATR72-211. Otherwise it could be an ATR72-101, -201 or -211.
You can see a normal size entry door behind the cockpit and four curved blade propellers with bigger prop spinners, so this it identified as ATR72-211.
This is an ATR72-211 with the same door configuration as the ATR72-102/202, so a forward cargo/bagage door with a small emergency exit next to it.
ATR72-500 & ATR72-600 (ATR72-212A)
The second generation ATR72 has different engines than the first generation, like for the ATR42. Similarly the ATR72-212A (marketed as ATR72-500) has six blade props with curved blades. The door configuration is the same as on the ATR72-102, -202 and -212. Additionally, the -600 (officially still designated ATR72-212A) has an updated avionics suite.
The Italian navy operates an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) version of the ATR72-600, designated P-72A. It is a boom extending from the tailcone and various bulges under the fuselage, as well as hard points for torpedos under the front fuselage.
Another military version is the maritime patrol variant, called P-72B in Italian service with the Guardia di Finanza. This has just a radar bulge under the front fuselage as an external feature. Other operators of the patrol version of the ATR72-500 and -600 are Pakistan and Turkey.
This is a newly built cargo version of the ATR72-600. It has never had cabin windows, so no plugs are visible. Also the cargo door is wider than on the passenger ATR72-600, making it easy to distinguish it from possible future cargo conversions of the ATR72-500/600.
In primer paint you can clearly see the large cargo door and absence of cabin windows on the dedicated freighter version of the ATR72-600, the ATR72-600F. (photo ATR Aircraft/WikiMedia)
Confusion possible with
The aircraft that looks most like an ATR42 is the IPTN N250 pictured here. It has a similar short landing gear and cockpit windows, but has oval cabin windows. Also it has a normal dorsal fin instead of the two-step dorsal fin of the ATR. (photo WikiMedia/Eka viation)
The smaller Dornier 328-100 has a similar tail cone (even more pointed) and short landing gear as the ATR42, but has oval cabin windows and four instead of six cockpit windows. Also note the streamline body on top of the fuselage.
The L-610 can be regarded as a crossover between a small ATR42 and the L‑410. Of the latter, the cockpit windows, more pointed nose and single nose wheel seem to be borrowed. The aircraft has a normal dorsal fin. (photo WikiMedia/Aldo Bidini)
The Ilyushin Il-112 was designed from the start as a tactical military transport, but a commuter passenger versin is also planned. Thanks to its T-tail it looks like an ATR42 but then a bit "fatter". It has a swept up rear fuselage though and tandem wheel main landing gears as main difference. (photo: Marina Lystseva/WikiMedia)
DeHavilland Canada DHC-8
While being of the same size and basic configuration as the ATR, the Dash 8 series can be easily recognised by longer engine nacelles, in which the long main landing gear retracts. Also the Dash 8 has four cockpit windows.