Friday, December 1, 2006
Flight schools are oohing and aahing over Diamond’s sleek two-seaters
Traditional wisdom in the aircraft business has always been that if you could build the perfect trainer, the world would beat a path to your door. No airplane is perfect, but Diamond Aircraft may have come as close to that ideal as anyone with the Diamond DA20-C1 Eclipse.
The company created the C1 in 1998 as an improved version of the DA20 Katana. The newer C1 Eclipse was powered by a 125 hp Continental IO-240. The little Continental brought fuel injection to the low-horsepower regime and helped make the airplane more acceptable to the crucial American market. Fuel injection improves fuel distribution between cylinders and helps reduce total fuel burn by allowing leaner cruise power settings.
By the end of 2005, Diamond had sold almost 350 of the Continental-powered DA20-C1s. At an average price of $130,000, that represents nearly $46 million. In today’s market, that’s a financial hit by anyone’s standards.
Such success wouldn’t have been possible without a significant improvement in the number of student starts, and Diamond hopes to capitalize on the upswing in interest with its own flight training centers. According to Jeff Owens, vice president of Diamond Aircraft, the company is poised to launch a chain of Diamond Flight Centers sometime in early 2007. “We have one facility in place now, the Diamond Brilliance Flight Center in Naples, Florida, but that’s strictly a test bed intended to help us examine the flight training market,” says Owens. “We hope to open the first actual DFC by the first quarter of 2007.”
A number of flight schools have already recognized the value of the C1 and have purchased the type to feed the recent resurgence of interest in primary flight training. Ben Walton, president of Summit Aviation at Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman, Mont., owns and operates a trio of Diamond C1s for flight instruction. He feels that the airplanes are nearly ideal for his applications.
Summit Aviation is the contract flight school for Montana State University’s recently initiated flight-training program. “Until two years ago, MSU had no aviation program,” explains Walton. “I started teaching a groundschool class at the college back in 2000, but the state didn’t offer a degree in aviation. In the short span of four semesters, enrollment in the groundschool class jumped from 25 to 50 students, and it was obvious there was plenty of interest in a baccalaureate aviation degree. I made a presentation to the state, and after considering it for a year or two, they finally launched the training syllabus in 2005.”
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