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Diamond reports electric progress

Diamond’s press conference at Aero Friedrichshafen included a briefing by Liqun (Frank) Zhang, CEO of Diamond Aircraft Industries Austria—a subsidiary of China’s Wanfeng Auto Holding Group—who pointed out that sales have been strong since Wanfeng acquired Diamond in December 2017. By 2019, total sales reached 233 airplanes, up from 2017’s 137 deliveries, and there were 240 deliveries in 2021. Zhang said that sales should increase by 25 to 30 percent for 2022, with an anticipated 300-plus worldwide sales. Zhang said diamond’s order book is full for 2022 and 2023.

To support this ramp-up, a new factory will be built in China. This will leave Diamond with three factories worldwide: its London, Ontario, plant with 300-plus staff; the Wiener Neustadt, Austria, plant, with 700 Diamond employees working on airframes and another 100 working on Diamond’s Austro Engine; the Xinchang, China, administrative office and its 150 employees; plus the new factory in Qingdao, China.

In other news, deliveries of Diamond’s new DA50 RG began in July 2021, and a DA50 RG demonstration tour of the United States is planned to start in June. Zhang also said that the DA50 RG’s Continental CD-300 engine has earned a TBR (time between replacement) extension to 2,000 hours.

But Diamond’s biggest Aero news was that the research and development phase of its hybrid-electric eDA40 (first announced in 2021) had yielded battery technology improvements that could extend the airplane’s endurance to 90 minutes. Expected operating cost reductions could wind up running 40 percent less than conventional piston-powered airplanes. The eDA40 will use a Safran electrical motor and have a system capable of charging a depleted airplane’s battery in less than 20 minutes. First flight of the Garmin G1000NXi-equipped eDA40 is expected by the end of 2022, with European and FAA certification anticipated to follow in 2024.

As for Diamond’s Austro Engine business, Zhang said that a main target is to make the engine compatible with sustainable aviation fuel, and to develop a new gearbox and more durable flywheel.

Zhang said that Diamond will be taking what it calls a “local for local” strategy. The airplanes built at the London factory will be sold in the Canadian market. Those produced in Austria will go to European customers. And those built in China will sell to the burgeoning customer base there, which centers on pilot training missions.

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