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Diamond offshoot Austro teams with Steyr to develop larger powerplant for two new Diamond aircraft

Diamond Aircraft's sister propulsion business Austro Engine is teaming with fellow Austrian firm Steyr Motors to develop a larger powerplant for Diamond's top-end DA50 Magnum and a new six-seat, twin-engined design dubbed Future Small Aircraft.

The 280hp (206kW), six-cylinder, jet-fuel engine will be based on Steyr's M1, used in boats and specialist vehicles, and deliver two-thirds more power than the DA50's 170hp, Austro AE300.

Diamond founder and chief executive Christian Dries hopes a DA50 with the new engine will fly this year and achieve certification by early 2013. The original five-seat DA50 has struggled to gain traction with customers, but Dries believes its new engine will allow it to compete head-on with the Cirrus SR22, the market leader in piston singles.

The FSA is a longer-term project which draws on technology from the single-engined D-Jet, which is undergoing flight testing at Diamond's offshoot in London, Ontario, says Dries.

The FSA will be built of carbonfibre, using a vacuum-assisted injection process, at Diamond's factory in Wiener Neustadt, near Vienna, and may include an automated landing system as a safeguard if the pilot is incapacitated. The technology was developed as part of a programme to develop an unmanned version of the DA42 piston twin. Cessna 303 operators are among the FSA's target market.

Austro - also based in Wiener Neustadt - will work with Steyr to produce a lighter version of the M1, which features direct high-pressure pump injection to all six cylinders, and has its cylinders and cylinder heads integrated in a monoblock design. "We have to modify the existing engine quite a lot," says Dries. "It has to go on a big diet."

Dries spun off Austro Engines in 2007 to develop an home-grown rotary, diesel powerplant when problems emerged with Diamond's then-engine supplier Thielert.

The downturn in the private aviation and training sectors have prompted Diamond to refocus its business in the past two years on the higher-margin security and surveillance market, served by the sensor- and camera-equipped MPP special mission version of the DA42, of which it expects to sell 60 to 80 examples this year.

"Special mission now represents 80% of our turnover and we believe we are now the biggest manufacturer in this market," says Dries. "Without it, the business would not look too bright."

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