Austro Engine: Will It Save Diamond?
Located in the same industrial complex south of Vienna alongside Diamond Aircraft, Austro Engine is furiously gearing up to build new aerodiesel engines that will eventually replace Thielert's troubled Centurion line. At the Berlin Air Show this week, Austro displayed the AE 300, a 2-litre powerplant that's an evolutionary improvement over the same Mercedes-Benz engine Thielert used for its Centurions. Austro is working with MBTech, a Mercedes Benz daughter company, to develop the four-cylinder engine and certification is "imminent" according to a report in Flight Global's Flight Daily News this week. Like the Centurion, the AE 300 is a turbocharged, direct-injected diesel engine with high-pressure, common rail technology. But it has 165 HP rather than the Thielert's 135 HP. We're told that the engine has the same relative footprint and is being specifically designed to fit Diamond's DA40 Star and DA42 Twin Star.
Austro will have to overcome several technical problems that have dogged the Thielert engines; chief among them is the requirement to inspect and/or replace the engine's gearbox at 300-hour intervals. Since it runs at the same RPM as the Thielert, the Austro has a reduction gearbox but the Hor Technologie-developed gear set is being initially fielded with an 1800-hour TBO. Further, unlike the Thielert, the Austro has no clutch, but uses a dynamic damper to insulate the prop and gear train from the diesel's sharp power pulses. The Centurion line also encountered cooling system faults that caused cracked cylinder heads. Fuel specifics for the Austro are said to be 20 percent better than the Centurion line, a claim that's consistent with the engine's performance in the Mercedes A-Class economy sedan, which delivers as much 56 MPG on the highway.
The burning question that beached Diamond owners have is: when? Marcus Hergeth, Austro's managing director, told Flight Daily that first deliveries are planned for October of this year. It's not known what production levels are planned.
If Austro's plans pan out, they may complicate short-term efforts to revive Thielert Aircraft Engines. Because Diamond represents the majority of new engine and parts business for Thielert, investors may be reticent to recapitalize a company whose market is overhung by a major competitor who is also a customer. Diamond and the company assigned to oversee Thielert's insolvency, Kubler, have engaged in a bitter war of words over how to restore engine and parts flow to Diamond customers. Last week, Kubler published new parts prices that Diamond called "abusive" and it announced that Thielert would no longer honor its warranty commitments. Meanwhile, more of Diamond's customers go AOG each day as engines come due for gearbox and engine replacements.
More of AVweb's continuing coverage of the Thielert bankruptcy:
Thielert Engine Owner Group Forms
Diamond: Thielert Was "Grossly Misleading"
Thielert: Diamond Guilty of Misinformation
... and more on the AVweb Insider blog