Flying school departs from tradition to provide aircraft for course aimed at supplying US carriers with first officers

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has selected Diamond Aircraft to provide trainers for a new graduate first-officer flight-training programme to be launched next February.

The course, which will be offered by Embry-Riddle's Aviation & Space Technology Academy (ASTA), is designed to school trainee pilots with no flying experience for first-officer positions on regional jets with US carriers.

The deal is a departure for Embry-Riddle, which has traditionally selected established aircraft from Cessna and Piper for its training programmes. ASTA's director of flight operations Steven Kulinski says: "The Cessna and the Piper models were certified in the 1960s and they really haven't changed since then. [The Diamonds] more closely replicate the regional jet glass cockpit."

Embry-Riddle will purchase 10 DA40-180 DiamondStars and will be the North American launch customer for the diesel-powered DA-42 TwinStar. This twin-engined aircraft was rolled out in Europe three months ago and it was launched in the USA at AirVenture. Three Piper Seminoles will initially be used to provide multi-engine training for the new programme until the DA-42 enters service.

The first flight of the DA-42 is set for the fourth quarter, with European Joint Aviation Authorities and US Federal Aviation Administration certification scheduled for 2004 and early 2005, respectively. Following delivery of the TwinStars, Embry-Riddle says it may also swap the 10 avgas-powered DiamondStars, due for delivery next year, for diesel-powered models.

The ASTA course includes about 450h of flying time and 100h of regional jet simulator time over 10 to 12 months. ASTA is also planning to purchase a Bombardier CRJ flight training device and an 840m2 (9,000ft2) hangar owned by Regency Air in St Augustine, Florida. The school plans to establish hiring agreements with several US regionals and says the course is tailored to meet their specifications. ASTA says it will pre-screen candidates and only accept students who would be hired by its airline partners.

Source: Flight International