Diamond Aircraft is completing final modifications to its D-Jet as it finally prepares to start the certification phase of the long-delayed programme.
The D-Jet was initially due to enter service in 2006, but has encountered numerous delays as a result of funding challenges as well as changes in the powerplant and de-icing system. Diamond has declined to provide an update on the personal jet programme since last year, when the manufacturer announced a further slip in certification to 2011. But Diamond sources say approval is now likely in 2012 as the certification phase of the programme is expected to take nearly two years.
Sources say the two flight-test aircraft, which to date have clocked about 700 flight hours, have not flown much in recent months. But they say the programme is about to be kicked into a higher gear. "It's a little slow, but will proceed quickly," says one source.
© Diamond Aircraft
This summer is the last window for final modifications to the D-Jet as the programme ends the development phase and begins the certification phase. The biggest modification is the installation of inflatable de-ice boots, replacing the initial TKS "weeping wings" ice-protection system.
The change to the de-ice system, announced by Diamond last year, was required by the US Federal Aviation Administration. It follows a decision in 2008 to uprate the D-Jet's initial Williams FJ33-15 engine to the -5A version. Flight-testing of the de-ice boots will begin later this year on aircraft serial number three - the second of the two flight-test aircraft - as Diamond works to certificate the D-Jet for flight into known icing.
Despite recent technical and financial setbacks, Diamond remains confident it will still beat competitors Cirrus, Honda and Piper, all of which are developing new light jets, to market. "Although we've had delays we should be the first one out of the gate," one source says.