New CEO At Diamond Aircraft

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After 20 years at the helm of Diamond Aircraft, Christian Dries is stepping down as CEO, and this week he named Gerd Berchtold as his successor. Dries will retain ownership of the Austria-based company, and will maintain an active management role. Departments responsible for marketing, distribution and aircraft finance will continue to report to him. Berchtold will take charge of design, production and customer support, and also will report directly to Dries. "Mr. Berchtold is a highly experienced and respected aeronautical engineer," Dries told the Financial Times Deutschland. "I need a CEO who takes care 100 percent of the aircraft." Dries said although the company is still feeling the effect of the economic downturn, it has benefited from its special-mission aircraft, such as those used for surveillance missions. The company employs 1,200 workers and has customers in 28 countries. Berchtold, an active pilot, formerly was employed by EADS, where he held several positions developing commercial and military aircraft.

"The Diamond Group has grown and diversified significantly in the last several years," Dries said. "Dr. Berchtold brings not only a wealth of aviation experience and expertise to our organization, but also a passion for general aviation. With his 100 percent focus on operations and customer support, our customers will be better served, now and in the future ... This organizational change will allow me to delegate detail operations management and focus more on strategy and specific programs." In the last few years, Diamond has certified three new variants of the DA40 and DA42, established Austro Engines to produce diesel powerplants, and modified the DA42 to fly as a UAV. "We are also continuing to focus a large part of our efforts on emerging and high-growth markets, including Russia and China," said Dries. "With the traditional retail markets having shrunk over the last several years, we want to continue to shift more of our attention to aircraft that have commercial applications, such as the flight training and aerial sensor markets."