Diamond Joins The Jet Set
Diamond Aircraft has entered what has become a crowded field. The company announced Wednesday it will have its own single-engine mini-jet in the air in 2004 and start delivering it in 2006. "This is a natural progression for us," said Peter Maurer, Diamond's North American CEO. The D-Jet, as it is currently known, will carry five people at 315 knots on 34 gph. Cabin altitude will be 8,000 feet at 25,000 feet. Diamond is projecting a price of "well under" $1 million U.S. Diamond is the fourth proposed mini-jet, or personal jet or entry-level jet, to be launched. Eclipse started it all with the 500 and Cessna announced its Mustang last fall, followed quickly by Adam Aircraft. Maurer said that while the D-Jet shares some attributes with all of its competitors, it's going to create its own market. "Our target is not going head-to-head with Cessna," he said. "We have always been successful at finding a niche within a certain market." Maurer said one possible area is as a primary jet trainer for airline pilots, something he said flight schools have been asking for. Maybe that's why the D-Jet bears a startling resemblance to the CT-114 Tutor that performed primary jet training for the Canadian armed forces for more than 30 years.
...Engine Still Up In The Air...
Despite its lofty performance predictions, Diamond isn't revealing the one piece of information that can make or break that data. Like Eclipse, Diamond hasn't settled on an engine for its jet, although it would appear an off-the-shelf design will be used. "The powerplant will be selected on the basis of proven technology and demonstrated reliability," a Diamond press release stated. Cessna has picked Pratt and Whitney for its Mustang powerplants and Adam will go with Williams engines. Eclipse is said to be talking with Pratt and Whitney and one other manufacturer. At less than $1 million, Diamond's entry is bound to raise the same sort of skepticism that has dogged Eclipse in its development plans. However, Diamond's track record atpushing the envelope is now widely recognized. Most recently, it flew the prototype of a twin-engine diesel that sips 10 gph at 180 knots and will purportedly sell for less than $400,000 U.S.
Over at Eclipse, the vice president of marketing was intrigued by the latest in the flurry of competitors. Dottie Hall apparently hadn't heard about the D-Jet until contacted by AVweb but said it just confirms what Eclipse has been saying all along: that a jet for less than $1 million is not only possible but popular. "It's good for the customer and good for the market," she said. "Of course, the single engine [on the D-jet] makes it easier." Hall said that despite initial skepticism about the viability and need for such aircraft, Eclipse always figured others would jump on the bandwagon. "We always assumed we wouldn't have that space to ourselves forever." Meanwhile, despite some well-publicized I-told-you-so's about its engine problems, Hall said she's still selling airplanes. In fact, she said more than 10 deposits have been taken since Eclipse parted company with Williams International. Hall said it's hoped an engine selection will be made this month and the second prototype, suitably outfitted for the new engines, can be finished. She acknowledged that the engine switch will push back the first delivery date of early 2004 but couldn't say by how long.