In late October Belgium sent a delegation of three personnel to the Wiener Neustadt headquarters of Austria’s Diamond Aircraft. There they received a thorough introduction to the Dart-550 tandem two-seater, which is one of a number of aircraft being considered for a new air force basic trainer requirement.
The trio—from the Belgian Air Force (BAF) and the Directorate of Material Resources—not only examined the aircraft and received a technical briefing but also learned about the ground-based training system and support package that is offered by Diamond. A demonstration flight was also undertaken.
Colonel Aviator Patrick “Goose” Goossens, the former head of training for the BAF and now head of the future pilot training workgroup, flew the aircraft. According to Diamond, he was pleased with the Dart-550’s stability and ease of handling.
“Belgium is at this stage keen to keep the competition for the new basic training aircraft as open as possible,” he said. “This visit, the flight, and the constructive exchange of information confirmed that the Dart-550 earns its place in that competition.”
“We are pleased that the Belgian Air Force is considering the Dart-550 as an option for their new Basic Training Aircraft, which is going to educate future pilots of the air force,” said Mario Spiegel, sales manager for the Dart. “We are glad to see that the Dart is already being considered for many programs all over the world, which proves once again that the Dart is right at the sweet spot of the future basic training requirements for military pilots.”
The Dart-550 is an outgrowth of the Dart-450, which made its first flight in May 2016. Whereas the 450 is powered by an Ivchenko Progress/Motor Sich AI-450S turboprop rated at 495 shp, the Dart-550 introduces a 550-shp General Electric H75-100 turboprop. The 2,400-kg mtow Dart-550 has an endurance of up to eight hours and is fitted with Garmin G3000 avionics and Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seats. It first took to the air on May 24, 2018, and was exhibited at that year's Farnborough air show.
Belgium has been operating the SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 piston-engined basic trainer since 1969, when 36 SF-260Ms were bought. They were augmented by a batch of nine SF-260Ds in the early 1990s. The survivors fly with 5 and 9 Squadrons of the Competence Center-Air at Beauvechain. Students selected for fast-jet training progress to the Alpha Jet E, with training undertaken in France.