ILA 2008: Diamond duels as new engine sparkles

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Austrian GA airframer Diamond Aircraft announced its new Austro Engine AE300 2.0 170hp diesel engine yesterday at ILA, after its long-time supplier Thielert Aircraft Engines (TAE) filed for insolvency just last week.

Sticking to the company’s diesel preference, it is a Jet A1-powered compression ignition piston engine developed from an automotive Mercedes-Benz engine. The AE300 is based on the same core engine as the Thielert unit.

Christian Dries, chief executive of Diamond, speaking at the show yesterday morning said: “Solving our own problem is the priority, but we’re happy to work with others.  There are more than 70 [Diamond] aircraft waiting for an engine.”



“Why did we start our own engine development programme? Answering his own question, Dries said: “Well, it was not our intention to invest €40m in the factory, I’d rather have saved the money.  But the TBO of the Centurion 2.0 was becoming very short.  It would almost be cheaper to operate with a twin turboprop…”
On a potential certification date, Dries says: “As soon as possible.  As you can see it’s close. It has to be if we are flying three aircraft into the show on them.”

And to that extent the company has flown three aircraft into ILA with the new AE300 power plant – the DA40, DA42 and a DA50 Magnum.

Dries also sees the new engine as a good retrofit option for other Thielert customers.  “We will see if it fits into a [Cessna] 172.  But it could also be an engine for the [Cessna] 182.  I think the 182 with the AE engine would be good…not as good as our aircraft but only because we’ve got a new design with better aerodynamics,” he says.

The AE300 will burn between 10 and 34 litres per hour depending on conditions and although the AE300 is actually slightly heavier than the TAE option, Dries is confident it is by far a better power plant.
“This engine will meet the 2,000h TBO.  It has to.”
According to Dries the DA40 has become a “quick aircraft” while the DA42 is going to become “a real 190kt aircraft”.

Speaking at ILA yesterday (Tuesday) the recently-appointed provisional insolvency administrator of TAE – Dr Bruno Kübler – said that current public disquiet with the company was largely due to a “disinformation campaign” initiated by Diamond Aircraft

“In the past few days, Diamond repeatedly let it be known that I was not very cooperative in negotiations and didn’t seem very interested in securing the TAE business in the long term. This is blatantly misrepresentation of the facts.  In actual fact, Diamond offered to buy a large number of engines and spare parts – but a price considerably lower than the price that would be charged to the end customers. That’s how Diamond tried to negotiate special conditions. Diamond has not yet directly responded to our offer of 13 May 2008 in which 90% of the required spare parts available would be delivered to Diamond.  Now that more than one week has passed, we will release the parts for the market.”

Under German insolvency laws, customers buying engines, spare parts or maintenance from TAE must now pay in advance. And an immediate 20% price hike also means that large customers like Diamond – and Cessna – are not happy and would probably prefer to wait for the inevitable sale of TAE to be completed later in the summer before making any further purchasing decisions and further clarifying all outstanding warranty issues – both pre- and post-insolvency.


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