Officials of the Russian delegation at the Le Bourget Air Show became interested in the aircraft of the Austrian company Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH (DAI), which is completely made of composite materials and equipped with a diesel engine operating on conventional aviation kerosene. According to Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov, Rostec State Corporation has entered into a contract with Diamond, which provides for the possibility of transferring production of DA40 and DA42 aircraft to Russia, particularly to Yekaterinburg, where the Ural civil aircraft plant is located.
In the interests of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, an aircraft similar to DA42 can be used in manned and unmanned versions. Even today it is permissible to hang various payloads on it - thermal imagers, television cameras, a locator.
Until 2008, the Diamond Aircraft business was developing quite successfully, the company entrenched among the largest manufacturers of general aviation aircraft and in the top three (along with the American companies Cessna and Cirrus) the leading manufacturers of light aircraft. However, the subsequent economic crisis significantly reduced the market in general and the company's sales in particular. The peak of the crisis came in 2009 year, when sales of general aviation aircraft in the world decreased by 57,5 percent. If, on 2007, the supply volume of Diamond Aircraft was 471 aircraft, then in 2008 they fell to 308, and in 2009, to 163 machines. In 2010, the volume declined to the lowest in the last ten years, the 139 machines. Under these conditions, the company modernized its product line, and DA20 machines with a “glass cabin” appeared on sale - G500, DA40 NG, DA40 Tundra and DA42 NG. A positive role was also played by the fact that the global economic crisis began to decline and the demand for light aircraft increased again.
In 2011, the negative trend was overcome, Diamond showed a record growth in sales - 33 percent (up to 185 machines). However, in 2012, the fall to 156 of the delivered machines again followed. The company again left the top five largest manufacturers of general aviation. It should be noted that since Diamond Aircraft operates in the class of the lightest cars for individual pilot-owners and does not produce business jets, its economic indicators relative to the leaders of the general aviation market have always been small. The total cost of 156 airplanes delivered to the market in the 2012 year is 53,5 million dollars, the year before sales amounted to 73,1 million. For comparison: the leader of the light aircraft market - the American Cessna in 2012 put 571 aircraft to customers in the total cost of 1,85 billion dollars.
The decline in sales and profit accordingly negatively affected the company's ability to develop its own promising projects. First of all, it concerns the program of creating a light jet aircraft D-Jet, as well as the new propeller aircraft Diamond DA50 Super Star and DA52. Under these conditions, the company tried to attract an outside investor. In November 2011, it was announced that the Canadian division of Diamond Aircraft Holdings would be sold to the UAE investment group Medrar Financial Group. It was planned that the Arab investments will be used primarily for fine-tuning the D-Jet aircraft. However, the deal was never completed due to the fact that Medrar was unable to raise the necessary funds. This led to the Canadian branch of Diamond being forced to lay off a significant portion of the staff. Currently, the future of the entire company is uncertain and the search for investors continues.
In addition to the general unfavorable situation, the reasons for the failure of Diamond in recent years are some controversial management decisions. First of all, this concerns the decision to continue funding the development of the D-Jet aircraft in conditions of crisis and a significant reduction in the potential demand for such machines. It is also erroneous to recognize the long neglect of the management and engineers of Diamond for the main innovation in the light aircraft market of the last two decades - the use of ballistic parachute systems for aircraft rescue. There is an explanation. Successful consolidation of DAI in the general aviation market in 90-ies is primarily due to the widespread use of composite materials in the design of gliders. Starting with the H36 motor glider, all Diamond models are made of high strength carbon fiber reinforced fiberglass panels. Despite its small size, the company was able to establish its own production of both fiberglass and carbon fiber.
In 2004, a production hall with an area of 9300 square meters for the production of composite materials was opened. To date, Diamond has the largest such production among all companies specializing in light aircraft. These materials, produced by Diamond, apart from lightness, are distinguished by high strength, which, together with the high aerodynamic quality of the company's airframes, leading its history from the motor-glider H36, provides high safety of flights. With the use of a shock-resistant crew rescue capsule, this allowed engineers to ignore the introduction of ballistic parachute rescue systems (Ballistic Recovery Systems, BPS) in small aircraft. These systems, developed by the American company BRS Aerospace, which make it possible to save the crew of an aircraft even in the event of engine failure, the control system and in some cases the destruction of the airframe machine, in a short time gained great popularity in the market. Diamond company issued a special press release, where, using these calculations, it proved that it is more expedient to use the mass and space occupied by the parachute system to increase the strength of the aircraft’s airframe - statistically this will give a greater effect to flight safety. However, the engineers and the management of the company, in terms of statistical data and calculations, did not take into account the psychology of buyers, who preferred to have a parachute system as a means of “last chance”. In addition, the success of the advertising campaign unfolded by one of the main competitors of Diamond - American Cirrus Aircraft, where the main attention was paid to the presence of ballistic parachute systems on all Cirrus airplanes. This allowed Cirrus to significantly increase sales, and to send the proceeds to the development of its own program of creating a light jet aircraft. As for Diamond, the company’s management acknowledged the underestimation of parachute systems, having entered into an agreement with BRS to optionally equip their machines with these systems, however, time was lost.
Also controversial is the decision of the management to diversify production and erosion of the production program. In 2007, Diamond acquired its own engine building capabilities. The British company MidWest acquired the rights to manufacture the Wankel aircraft rotary engine, and in Wiener Neustadt, with the financial participation of Diamond, the Austro Engine company was founded. To date, the Austro Engine line-up includes the AE300 diesel four-cylinder aircraft engine (four-cylinder, power 180 kW for DA40 and DA42 aircraft). The Austro Engine AE50R rotary Wankel engine with 55 horsepower is installed on the motor-gliders of the German company Schleicher and light UAVs of the Austrian company Schiebel. To replace it, a 75-strong Wankel AE75R engine with an increased resource is being developed, designed for installation on promising light UAVs. In addition, together with another Austrian company, Steyr Motors, is developing a new aviation diesel AE500 with power up to 300 horsepower. It is planned to be used in the new Diamond models - a single-engine DA50 aircraft and a twin-engine DA52. Currently, Austro Engine has about 60 employees, the production volume is up to 250 AE300 engines and up to 150 AE50R per year.
AE300 series engines provide Diamond aircraft one of their main competitive advantages - low fuel consumption. The twin-engine DA42 consumes less than 20 liters of fuel per flight hour. Together with a very light airframe, thanks to the use of fiberglass, economical engines determine the high overall weight efficiency of the Diamond models. In 2004, DA42 made the first transatlantic flight among light aircraft with a diesel engine. The flight from St. John (Newfoundland, Canada) to the distance 3518 kilometers took 12,5 hours. The average fuel consumption is 21,7 liters per flight hour or 7,7 liters per hundred kilometers, which is a unique indicator for a twin engine. However, despite these successes, the deployment of its own engine building diverted Diamond’s limited resources and probably affected the progress of work on other projects.
Diamond gliders and aircraft have been known in our country since the 90s, but these were mostly one-time supplies of used machines. The first joint project of Diamond and the Russian company appeared at the beginning of 2000's. In 2004, the ILA 2004 Diamond Aircraft and the Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant (at that time, FSUE) presented a project to build a DA42 Twin Star aircraft equipped with the Russian SON-112 optical-optical surveillance system during the aerospace showroom. Also in the 2004-m OJSC “Nizhny Novgorod aircraft building plant“ Sokol ”, which at that time was part of the“ Kaskol ”group of companies, and Diamond Aircraft signed an agreement on the production of aircraft components for Diamond aircraft on the“ Sokol ”.
The first large-scale attempts to gain a foothold in the Russian market were undertaken by the company in the next year, 2005. At the MAKS-2005 air show, Diamond Aircraft Industries presented its DA40 Diamond Star, DA42 Twin Star light aircraft line and the aforementioned DA42 MPP model equipped with the CON-112 system. In the course of this salon, an agreement was signed between Diamond Aircraft and the Russian NPO AeroVolga on joint production and promotion of DA20 aircraft on the Russian market. It was planned that AeroVolga will assemble DA20 from the car-sets supplied from Austria at its plant in the Samara region. However, the development of this project has not received. In addition, during the same MAKS-2005, Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH and the Russian Irkut Corporation signed a protocol of intent to create a pilot-unmanned system based on a DA42 Twin Star aircraft. This development project also did not receive.
In 2007, Diamond Aircraft proposed the Russian Machines holding to organize a joint production of light aircraft on the basis of the production facilities of the Aviakor plant. These negotiations also ended in vain.
Despite a series of unsuccessful attempts to create a joint venture with Russian companies, the prospects for the Russian general aviation market for Diamond Aircraft management are obvious. A modification of DA40 Tundra Star or Tundra has been developed specifically for the Russian market. It differs from the usual DA40 in a reinforced chassis with wide low-pressure wheels, air generators, Fowler flaps and vertical aerodynamic surfaces of the wing (to increase the lift force when operating from snow-covered areas). Training on DA40 NG Тundra and DA42 aircraft was organized on the basis of the Ulyanovsk Higher Aviation School of Civil Aviation (UVAU GA), while the acquisition of DA42 aircraft for UVAU GA was accompanied by a corruption scandal. The Arctic version of the Diamond DA40 Tundra in October 2012 was acquired by the airline Polar Airlines for operation in Yakutia, it is planned to purchase three more such machines. In addition, a number of Diamond aircraft of various models and years of release are from private owners and small airlines in Russia.
Obviously, given the current financial difficulties of the Diamond, the small size and cost of the business, as well as the high technological potential, the company could become an excellent object for both cooperation and absorption. Diamond technologies can be used not only in general aviation, but also in the production of modern composite materials, in engine-building and in the creation of light UAVs. Under these conditions, it would be advisable for Russian companies to consider the possibility of cooperation, investment, the creation of a joint venture, or even the acquisition of an Austrian company.
Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH - Austrian aircraft manufacturing company with headquarters in Wiener Neustadt (federal state of Lower Austria). In addition to its facilities in Austria, it has an aircraft manufacturing plant in Canada (London, Ontario), a joint venture for the production of aircraft in China, as well as a number of service centers in the US and the UK. Engaged in the development and production of general aviation aircraft, as well as motor gliders. In addition, Diamond is a manufacturer of aircraft composite materials and engines. According to DAI official reports, since 1991, one hundred percent of the company's shares belong to the Drize family. The owner and president of the company since 1989 is Christian Driz, the executive director of 2010 is Gerd Berhtold.