Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Diamond Aircraft’s Austria Home

A visit to the factory at Wiener Neustadt and a tour of the Austro Engine Plant

The Guardian
Feinig notes that the current economic problems have affected Diamond's market and all of general aviation, but he explains that the company has worked hard to develop a market for the MPP (Multi Purpose Platform) "Guardian" version of the DA42, producing a special-mission aircraft that's relatively inexpensive to buy and operate, and is easy to maintain. Thus far, Diamond has sold over 100 units of the DA42 MPP Guardians to 28 countries. The Guardian can be used for maritime patrol, surveillance and a host of tasks that can utilize its long-range and/or long loiter time. The DA42 NG sells in the range of 650-680,000 Euro (at the current exchange rate of about $1.28 per Euro, this would be about $832,000 to $870,000), while the MPP Guardian starts at about 1 million Euro (about $1,280,000), but the sensor packages (search radars, FLIR, etc.) can make the final price four to five times as high. Steep numbers, but very economical for government and law-enforcement use, especially when Feinig told me that the operating costs were on the order of $180 per hour.

Because Diamond has a separate hangar to showcase the Guardian, Feinig shows it to me first. The Guardian can be configured in a number of ways, and the hangar contains various Guardians that were going to be used by different countries in different roles. Also displayed in the hangar are different types of sensor and communication equipment, making it essentially a complete Guardian "showroom."

Diamond Factory
After the Guardian hangar, we tour the Diamond production line. Diamond develops their own tooling and production procedures, building on its early experiences with composites.

Our factory tour generally follows the production flow path with the laying-up, molding and curing of the major composite components and their trimming and assembly. To the novice like me, this process has always seemed a lot like the large-scale building of the plastic model airplane that many of us built as children. One can't help but look at a DA42 in a jig and think of how rubber bands held your model halves together as they dried.

Particularly impressive are the wing sections and the dual-spar construction that give the Diamond wings great strength. Additional areas of interest are the assembly areas where the fuselage sections are fitted with the internals, and then wings, undercarriage, engines, etc. are added, and the aircraft is moved to its final checkouts inspection, then test flown. Although production is down due to the recession, there are still a number of aircraft and components at each stage of production.

Austro Engine Plant
After our tour of the Diamond plant, we drive a short way to the Austro Engine plant. Austro was founded in 2007 and now produces the AE300 diesel used in the DA40 and the AE50R avgas-burning rotary engine used in motorgliders, small drone helicopters, etc


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