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Diamond secures D-Jet investor and forges ahead with development

Diamond Aircraft has received a cash injection of $110 million from a European-based investor paving the way for the airframer to complete certification of its D-Jet personal jet.

The Austrian general aviation manufacturer had hoped to secure approval of the its first jet this quarter, but a funding shortfall along with "complicated" aircraft design issues - notably with the air inlet structure - have set the programme back by around a year.

"We have invested $140 million in the D-Jet programme to date," said Diamond chief executive Christian Dries at Aero Friedrichshafen. "Now we have secured this funding we should take around 11 months [to complete the certification process], with our people working around the clock."

To date the first and second test aircraft have flown 350h and 400h respectively, says Diamond's managing director Michael Feinig. The fourth Williams FJ33-5A-powered aircraft will enter the flight-test programme in September and the fifth and final aircraft early in 2011, he adds.

Diamond has secured nearly 400 orders for the $1.9 million aircraft to date and plans to launch production at its London, Ontario plant in 2011, starting at a rate of two aircraft a month and ramping up to 17 D-Jets. Diamond is also designing a military training version of the D-Jet - which it hope to sell for $2 million, without a weapons system - and an unmanned, long-distance aircraft capable of cruising at 50,000ft (15,250m).

Dries admitted at the show that Diamond has been forced to diversify its product line and widen its target market to "survive the economic downturn." A number of projects are in the works, including:

Designing wing spar boxes for the Russian MC-21 airliner, which is set for service entry in 2017.

Building a Mercedes-based V-6 turbodiesel engine for the DA50 DiamondStar piston single

Designing and building a "future small aircraft" powered by twin turbodiesels. The six-seat variant will have twin 270hp (200kW) engines, while the eight-seat model will have two 400hp engines. Both aircraft will have fly-by-wire controls, an automatic landing system for use in case of pilot incapacitation and be available in pressurised and unpressurised versions.

Developing two new V-8 turbodiesels - one with 350hp and the other with 550hp.

Developing a light aircraft driven by a hybrid combination of a 55hp Wankel rotary engine and a 40-50kW electrical motor. Dries said an aircraft will make its debut at next year's show.

Meanwhile, Diamond has European approval for its 170hp AE300 Austro engine powered DA40 piston single - now called the DA40NG.

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