Diamond Aircraft is confident a financial saviour can be found for the D-Jet after the Canadian company was forced to put the programme on hold and lay off 150 engineers and assembly workers on 25 February.

The London, Ontario-based airframer - a separate entity from its sister business in Austria and which owns the design rights to the all-composite, single-engined personal jet - needs $65 million, plus $12 million for assembly line set-up, to bring the D-Jet to certification and production.

Chief executive Peter Maurer says $188 million has already been sunk into D-Jet's development since its genesis in 2005, and that it is "70%" ready, with production facilities in place. "The programme is in really good shape," he says. "Customers are excited and the orderbook is solid. The thing that's missing is the cash to finish it."

Diamond announced it was halting the programme after it became clear that investment from Middle Eastern group Medrar - announced at the Dubai air show in late 2011 - was not going to materialise.

Instead, Diamond is preserving its cash to allow the legacy business to continue, says Maurer. The company has been building around one DA40 piston-single a week, and one DA20 motor glider a month as well as Lycoming-powered versions of the twin-engined DA42.

Diamond insists that it is continuing to fill orders and aftermarket commitments for its piston range, and is retaining about 50 staff.

Diamond has flown its third D-Jet, following a now-superceded proof-of-concept prototype and a second test-flight aircraft: the three have notched up a total of 665h flying time. The third aircraft, "aerodynamically close to the type design", has an uprated Williams FJ33-5A engine, modified wingtips and a de-icing boot.

To achieve certification, Diamond would have to build a fourth production-conforming aircraft, says Maurer. That would take a year, and a further 12 months would be required to complete flight testing. "For an investor coming in now, it's a very good opportunity," he says.

With the development office at Diamond's London plant deserted, Maurer's main worry is that furloughed engineers experienced on the D-Jet programme will seek other jobs. "My biggest concern is that we lose that intellectual capital," he says. "That's why it's important that we get the D-Jet up and running again as soon as possible."

Two years ago, the D-Jet faced a similar crisis with most of the design team being sent home after the failure of a bid to win funding from the provincial and Canadian federal governments. The Medrar agreement seemed to finally mark a new start for the long-running and troubled programme.

Source: Flight International