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Fri, Apr 08, 2005

Diamond Aircraft Updates DA42 Program

Diamond Issues Aggressive and Blatantly Honest Statement

Note: Diamond Aircraft has issued a statement that reflects the weighty issues involved in bringing a truly revolutionary aircraft to the GA market. For the first time that we can recall, a manufacturer is fielding a new aircraft that addresses the three pillars of GA progress... with new technology airframes, new technology panels AND new technology powerplants. While there are a few such projects rumored to be in the offing for later this year or early next year, none are quite as complex as bringing a de-iced IFR twin to the market.

Diamond is experiencing delays and the obligatory learning curve that comes when you don't do things the same way everyone else has, and while they're taking some flak for delays and performance issues, I think such criticism is (mostly) unwarranted. No other GA manufacturer has EVER taken on a program this aggressive and based on what we know so far, NO GA manufacturer seems as close to meeting their goals as Diamond appears to be. If anyone doesn't expect delays and compromises, then they really need to take up a less risky development program... but nothing more complicated than developing the next generation of tiddly-winks.--Jim Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief, Chief of Flight Test Operations

Herewith, unedited, is Diamond's update on the much-awaited DA42 program.

The Official Statement From Diamond Aircraft

DA42-tdi Program Status

The DA42-tdi is now fully IFR certified by EASA (Europe). FAA validation is in process and expected mid-2005, in fact the FAA successfully concluded the necessary flight tests late February 2005. However, for reasons discussed below, Diamond will be delaying the North American DA42-tdi introduction, until significant fleet experience has been accumulated in Europe (earliest foreseen N.A. deliveries would be Q1 2006). Diamond has now begun deliveries of the DA42-tdi in Europe. The DA42 production has been active since mid 2004 and therefore the current production ramp-up is rapid with S/N 049 in composite production and S/N 030 having entered final assembly, at the time this was written. The production rate will rise to 17 units per month by Q3, 2005. The certified configuration includes G1000 with optional remote ADF and DME, KAP 140 Autopilot, Premium Interior, and 4-Way Baggage compartment. Current DA42-tdi development is focusing on optional equipment, including the TKS anti/deice system and oxygen system.

DA42-360 (Lycoming) Status

The Lycoming powered DA42 (designated DA42-360, to signify 360hp) is undergoing detail design refinement and certification testing. There are currently 2 flying aircraft, the latest equipped with the production configuration Garmin G1000 and KAP 140 autopilot. FAA certification is scheduled for October 2005 with initial North American deliveries in Q4, 2005.

Explanation of Program Delays

As is well known, there have been delays in the DA42 program. These delays have been partly due to the certification of the Garmin G1000 for Europe (EASA / Europe has more restrictive requirements for HIRF (High Intensity Radiated Fields) that the G1000 did not initially meet, requiring time consuming design modifications). Also, for European IFR certification it was necessary to certify both remote ADF and DME, controlled through the G1000, which required additional development and certification time. A second factor in delaying the introduction to the market was the development of the tdi's cooling system, which required extensive modifications relative to the original configuration. It should be noted that wrt the Lycoming powered version, the delays associated with the G1000
certification and powerplant development do not apply and as such there are no technology risks to adversely affect the planned schedule.

DA42-tdi Performance

There is no question that the current DA42 tdi's do not meet some of the original performance predictions, especially the originally specified maximum speed of 203 ktas. Original flight tests with S/N 001 were the actual basis for this predicted higher altitude performance, however the anticipated high altitude maximum cruise speeds and climb rates could not be realized in the certified aircraft because of cooling limitations associated with the engine. Contrary to conventional turbocharged aircraft engines, the turbo diesel engine power output actually lapses from a lower altitude (approx 5,500' d.a.). The power lapse rate is somewhere between a conventional turbocharged aircraft engine and a normally aspirated aircraft engine. This density altitude dependant power reduction is controlled by the FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) and is necessary to maintain safe operating temperatures for the engine. What does this mean in practical terms? Although the absolute higher altitude performance is less than originally anticipated, the DA42tdi is an aircraft that offers exceptional real world performance, low operating costs and a flexibility that is unmatched by conventional aircraft. The DA42-tdi is capable of sustained effortless high speed cruise at very low fuel flows (the absolute maximum fuel burn is 8.1 gph per engine at 100% power). The simple operation, smoothness and quietness of the powerplants result in significantly reduced pilot fatigue, making comfortable longer trips possible. The turbo-diesel engines are even more fuel efficient at reduced power settings, resulting in exceptionally long endurance and ranges when required. This ability is significant both from a safety and cross country performance perspective. For example, if poor weather at the intended destination precludes a safe landing, the ability to reduce fuel consumption to extremely low levels to maximize endurance or range, offers options to the pilot that are simply not available in conventional aircraft. With thoughtful flight planning, many trips that would require a fuel stop in many high performance aircraft will become nonstop flights, resulting in shorter point to point flight times, without concern for en route low altitude weather.

DA42-360 (Lycoming) Performance

Both versions of the DA42 operate at the same gross weight and have essentially the same airframe. The Lycoming powered version has a total of 360 hp vs. the DA42-tdi's 270 hp. Both engines lapse power with increasing density altitude, with the TAE engine lapsing at a lesser rate than the Lycoming. However since the Lycoming version starts with a full 30% power surplus over the TAE version, it is only at much higher altitudes (approx 12,000' plus) that the turbo-diesel version actually outperforms the Lycoming version. Tom Horne, of AOPA Pilot described the Lycoming powered prototype as "a hotrod of the first order". The DA42-360 offers incredible runway and climb performance, as well as higher indicated airspeeds. Diamond will release actual performance information once the testing has been completed on the conforming flight test aircraft. Fuel consumption is of course higher for the Lycoming powered version than the tdi, and is comparable to most high performance singles. The Diamond-typical high glide-ratio means that at partial power settings, exceptional fuel efficiency at respectable airspeeds is achievable. The DA42-360 offers higher fuel capacity (95 gals) than the DA42-tdi, but maintains similar full fuel useful loads due to the lower weight of the installed powerplants and the lower density of the Avgas vs. Jet fuel.

DA42 360 (Lycoming) Configuration

The DA42-360 is powered by a pair of Lycoming IO-360 engines (similar configuration as the DA40-180). The aircraft is equipped with 3 bladed MT composite props that have demonstrated optimum single engine performance and smoothness in initial flight tests. We are also working with Hartzell to provide a metal prop option. The powerplant controls will be conventional, i.e. 2 each throttle, prop, and mixture levers. The throttle quadrant / center console is being reconfigured to optimize cockpit ergonomics. Fuel capacity has been increased to 95 gals. total. A future simplification of the powerplant controls (mechanically linked throttle / prop control or FADEC) will be considered, based on market feedback and available solutions.

DA42-tdi vs. DA42-360

Which one is better? There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on the application, typical mission and quite frankly personal preferences. If you drive a V8 powered car or sport-utility, you will likely prefer the Lycoming. If you favor a diesel VW or Mercedes or drive a Toyota Prius with hybrid power train, you would likely prefer the turbo-diesel.
The turbo-diesel with its single power levers and lower prop speeds, offers ease of operation, smoothness and reduced powerplant noise. Its fuel efficiency is unmatched by any comparable aircraft and at lower power settings incredible ranges and endurances are possible. At very high altitudes the tdi offers somewhat better performance, but for most operations this advantage lies outside the normal practical envelope.

The Lycoming powered version offers exhilarating performance at the expense of fuel economy and operating simplicity. In practical terms, the increased fuel cost for an average private owner would amount to between $100 and $200 / month based on current fuel prices (approx $10 to 12 / hr more than the tdi). The Lycoming IO360 has proven itself, in millions of hours, as a very dependable powerplant and practically every A&P mechanic is already qualified to work on it.

In either version, the DA42 offers an added dimension to high performance aircraft. Although relatively rare, powerplant failures can and do occur. Flying high wing loading, high performance single engine piston aircraft, especially over inhospitable terrain, at night, over water and in IMC, increases the safety risk in case of powerplant failure. The difficulty often associated with controlling a conventional light twin in the event of an engine failure is essentially nonexistent in both versions of the DA42. The high lift / low drag, high aspect ratio wing and asymmetrical thrust lines minimize yaw and roll in case of an engine failure. In summary, either version of the DA42 is a highly capable high performance cross country aircraft that offers the safety of powerplant redundancy at essentially single engine costs.

Challenges to Turbo-Diesel Introduction in North America

Diamond is the only aircraft manufacturer currently offering turbo-diesel engines. As such and with over 130 DA40-tdi's delivered in Europe, Diamond is unquestionably the most experienced and knowledgeable aircraft manufacturer with respect to turbo-diesel powerplant technology. Diamond remains fully committed to offering a diesel engine powerplant option in all markets, including North America. We are equally committed to the success of such market introductions and this dictates our actions regarding the North American introduction. This is done in the mutual interest of our customers, our business partners and Diamond. In our opinion there are several challenges to the
successful introduction of the diesel engine to North America.

1. Limited Technical Knowledge and Support Infrastructure

Of the nearly 300,000 piston aircraft registered in the USA, almost all have horizontally opposed, manually controlled, Avgas burning air cooled piston engines. The entire industry knowledge base, with respect to operation and maintenance of small aircraft engines is currently focused on these types of engines. For successful cross country operation of the turbo-diesel engine (or any other non conventional powerplant for that matter), it is either necessary to have an extensive, broad based and properly trained service network or powerplants that have demonstrated exceptional long term reliability, such that unscheduled service requirements are extremely rare.

Solution: TAE will be establishing a North American Training and Service Center shortly, as well as working with several aeronautical universities to provide turbo-diesel technology and maintenance training. Prior to introduction of the turbo-diesel powered aircraft to North America, Diamond's Service Centers will have the opportunity to be trained. If such training is conducted too early and there is no opportunity to put this training into action, then the training is wasted. Therefore the introduction and training will be carefully coordinated.

2. Limited Operating Experience

As should reasonably be expected with any new technology application, initial operating experience usually results in some product development. This has been the case with the single engine DA40-tdi and the resulting improvements in operation, performance and reliability have been very satisfactory. Each engine installation and application is unique and as such, Diamond and TAE are in full agreement that an immediate introduction of the DA42 tdi to the private North American market is premature.

Solution: The European fleet will accumulate service experience that will provide the basis for any necessary product development and the confidence that the aircraft and powerplant will meet expectations, in actual service. It is our intent to accumulate between 20,000 to 30,000 fleet hours in Europe, prior to introduction in North America.

3. Operation under Extreme Ambient Conditions

Although we have some limited experience with several DA40-tdi's operating in both southern and northern Europe, the North American continent is typically subjected to larger temperature extremes, both hot and cold. To ensure satisfactory operation, additional actual service experience is required.

Solution: TAE will be conducting North American service trials this year, under extreme hot & high and low temperature conditions.


Why is Diamond delivering DA42-tdi's in Europe and not North America? Don't the same issues apply?

The type design responsibility and technical expertise for the DA42, as well as the TAE engine reside in Europe. Therefore it is easier to implement any necessary product developments on a European fleet. The European TAE support infrastructure is already well established and if required, factory direct support is easier to manage. The extremely high European Avgas cost (US$6.50 - 8.50 / gal) and even partial unavailability of Avgas have made the need for alternative fuel powerplants more acute. Small displacement diesel engine technology is well accepted and understood in Europe as a result of well over 50% of all new car sales being diesel. This is not the case in North America, where diesel engine applications, with few exceptions, are currently limited to large displacement applications (marine, trucks, buses). Many of the European aircraft technicians already have experience with small displacement liquid cooled aircraft engines.

Options

Both versions of the DA42 are equipped with the Garmin G1000 with integral Terrain Awareness System, KAP140 autopilot, Premium full leather interior and 4-Way Baggage compartment. Avionics options include Mode S transponder with Traffic Information System (USA only), ADF, DME, XM satellite weather and Infotainment.
G1000 enhancements (e.g. Jepp Chartview) will be incorporated as they become available. We are working with suppliers to incorporate sensor based traffic and lightning detection systems. TKS anti/deice and Oxygen systems are expected to be certified prior to first North American delivery. Air conditioning is under develop(ment) for the DA42-360 only, with availability starting 2006.

DA42 Position Holders

All current position holders have the option of selecting either the DA42-tdi or DA42-360, without any price impact. The selection need not be made at this stage. Diamond will have demonstrators of both versions available in North America, in advance of North American deliveries. There will be opportunity to test both aircraft and decide then. If any current position holder decides to request a refund of their deposit for whatever reason, these delivery positions will not be reassigned and the subsequent position holders will advance in the delivery queue, unless otherwise requested.

FMI: www.diamondair.com

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