The new DART-550 turboprop aerobatic trainer from Austria’s Diamond Aircraft Industries (OE18) is making its debut at Farnborough International Airshow 2018, fresh from its first flight in May, leading a contingent of the company’s general aviation and special missions aircraft. A follow-on to the DART 450 civilian and military aerobatic trainer, the 550, shown on static display (as is the 450), incorporates an electronic engine and propeller control system, Garmin G3000 avionics suite, Martin Baker MK16 ejection seats, and a 550-hp General Electric GE H75-100 engine. With an expected maximum speed of 247 ktas and mtow of 2,400 kg (5,291 pounds) in this configuration, the new trainer can also be outfitted in varying engine power ratings, seat configurations, and/or avionics options as needed by customers, the company noted.
Diamond’s DA62 MPP (Multi Purpose Platform) special-mission aircraft is also on static, on the heels of last month’s delivery of the first DA62 MPP, to launch customer DEA Specialised Airborne Operations, a UK provider of airborne sensing services including ISR, aerial survey, and flight calibration.
A larger, more capable version of the four-place DA42 MPP, also being shown, the seven-seat DA62 is equipped with a pair of turbocharged Fadec-equipped Austro Engine AE330 diesels, consuming just 7.4 gph total at loiter, allowing 10-hour nonstop missions.
Emphasizing its turnkey solutions for the MPP, Diamond can supply and integrate customized packages of sensors, datalinks, ground stations, global support, spare parts, tooling, and delivery, as well as all corresponding pilot, equipment operator, and maintenance training. Launch customer DEA’s DA62 integrates two in-house designed components, the NEPTUN lightweight maritime search radar, KOPERNIKUS commercial satellite communication system, an electro-optical and infrared gyro stabilized gimbal camera, MX15 from Wescam, and an airborne AIS receiver. The ergonomic operator station in the aircraft’s second row is equipped with two HD operator screens, and the rear mission equipment compartment has a mission computer with onboard recording capability.
Late last year Diamond founder Christian Dries sold the company to China’s Wanfeng Aviation Industry Co. The sale was made “in the interest of a successful long-term future,” said Dries. “We needed to find the right partner to continue our good work. Wanfeng and specifically [Wanfeng chairman] Bin Chen share my vision of the future of general aviation and are investing for the right reasons, with a long-term strategy and the resources to see their vision through.”
The sale included group companies Diamond Aircraft Canada and Austro Engine, the latter is the manufacturer of the diesels that power Diamond’s DA40, DA42, and DA62.
In March Chen laid out the company’s “future group strategy,” putting “a focus on continued growth” through continued development of new aircraft models and technologies. In addition to the DART 450/550 turboprop singles and twin-engine DA42/62, Diamond makes the two-seat DA20 the four-seat DA40 (NG, Tundra and XLT models) piston and diesel singles. Some previously announced projects, including the DART-280 helicopter and a tiltrotor, are “under evaluation,” according to the company.
Located at the Wiener Neustadt East airfield, DAI Austria, with some 600 employees, is now global headquarters for the Diamond Group and Austro Engine, center for the Research & Development, production, sales, and marketing as well as customer support and aftermarket efforts. Liqun Zhang is CEO and Dries maintains an advisory role to help the new ownership and ensure the continued development of Diamond Aircraft Group.
Earlier this year, Diamond announced several executive changes aimed at “making best combined use of all our global resources,” Chen said. Peter Maurer retired as CEO of Diamond’s Canadian operations to support Diamond Aircraft in a senior global strategy and business development role, while Scott McFadzean has been promoted from COO to CEO of the Canada operation.