Diamond, which a year ago seemed to have little to worry about beyond building enough airplanes to meet the demand, is scurrying these days to deal with a variety of challenges, not the least of which is a sharp drop-off in orders due to the global financial crisis.
There has been some good news, though. Diamond did make the first flight of its higher-powered single-engine D-Jet last fall, and development is on track with that project.
And DA42 operators are mostly in the air again. German aircraft engine maker Thielert, still going through reorganization in hopes of attracting a buyer, announced last summer that it was going to lower prices for spares and inspections in the Centurion turbodiesel engine that powers Diamonds' DA42 Twin Star. According to Diamond North America President Peter Mauer, Thielert has made good on that promise and "reasonably" priced parts are shipping. While there are still airplanes "grounded" since Thielert's troubles began last spring, Mauer said it was not for lack of parts or service but the "owners' choice" at this point. Some are doubtless, Maurer agreed, waiting until the Austro option becomes available.
One choice Twin Star owners will have in the coming months is to replace the Thielert engines in their Twin Stars with a new option, 170 hp Austro diesels, a project Diamond's sister company is hurrying to complete. The engines, Mauer said, will be based on a Mercedes core, as are the Thielerts, but with new, more durable and reliable components, such as a much longer-lived gearbox than on the Thielert product, as well as more horsepower for better all-around performance.
Diamond is also flying its Lycoming-powered DA42 prototype and expects to have the gas-piston twin certified and ready to deliver by around the time you read this. With a pair of 180 hp IO-360s, the new airplane should be a strong performer, with better takeoff, climb and cruise performance at most altitudes than the Thielert-powered DA42, though it will almost double the very miserly fuel flow of the Thielerts. Lycoming has worked with Diamond to supply counter-rotating engines for the airplane, and Hartzell has developed a new prop for it, as well. Diamond is saying that the airplane "might" be retrofittable to Austro engines when they become available, sometime in 2009. Price of the G1000-equipped, Lycoming-powered airplane, designated the DA42 L360, is $599,500.
Lastly, citing concerns over slow sales of high-end piston-powered transportation airplanes, Mauer announced that Diamond would be slowing development of its DA50 Super Star five-place piston single. The 200-plus-knot airplane, which features the largest cabin by far in its class, will have light pressurization and be powered by a 350 hp Continental gas piston engine, with fadec. Now Diamond has announced a new version, which it hopes to introduce first, the 170 hp Magnum. It will be powered by the 170 hp Austro engine. Its projected airspeed is 50 knots slower and it will seat one less backseat occupant than the 350 hp version, though it will be very miserly on fuel.