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Volume 26, Number 15c
April 12, 2019
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Aero: Diamond Revives The DA-50, This Time As A Retrac
Paul Bertorelli

Cirrus’ sales success all but tanked the idea of a high-performance single with retractable gear. But at Aero on Wednesday, Diamond Aircraft revived the idea in announcing that the long-stalled DA-50 is coming back, this time as a diesel-power retractable with at least five seats. Diamond CEO Liquin Zhang says certification is planned for the end of 2020.

Students of Diamond history will recall that the DA-50 first appeared in 2006 at Aero as a skunk works project of the company’s former owner, Christian Dries. It simmered in development, but was soon displaced by the DA-62 that has proven to be a sales success for Diamond, with more than 120 sold. The DA-50 sports the same size cabin, with doors on each side, two seats up front and a wide bench in the back suitable for three passengers. The cabin still has room for baggage in the back.

As it did with the DA-42 in 2002, Diamond is venturing forward with an unproven engine bolted to a new airframe, although by now the DA-62 has wrung out the airframe in the real world market. The DA-50 will be powered by Continental’s recently certified six-cylinder, four-valve CD-300 diesel, which is adapted from an automotive diesel but which Continental considers a proper aircraft engine. The DA-50 represents the first OEM application for the engine.

No specs or performance predictions were provided by Diamond on Wednesday. The photo accompanying this new story shows the original prototype, which has fixed gear.

Revivals From Diamond And Flight Design
Paul Bertorelli

The Chinese owners of western aviation infrastructure—Cirrus, Continental, Mooney, Diamond—generally remain low key, as in invisible. So, it was unusual yesterday when Diamond’s Austria CEO, Liquin (Frank) Zhang, conducted the company’s press conference at Aero. He gave a brisk overview of Diamond’s parent, Wanfeng Auto Holding, a $30 billion closely held Chinese conglomerate.

Confident and concise, he rattled off all the numbers and explained how Diamond fit into the larger picture of a company that made its chops in the automotive and heavy industrial manufacturing sectors. Still, my friend Ed Hicks, editor of the U.K.’s Flyer magazine, and I were lamenting the absence of Diamond’s former owner, the irrepressible and unpredictable Christian Dries. He sold the company to Wanfeng in 2017.

For shock value alone, Dries was unmatched and we always went into a press conference expecting the unexpected. Perhaps a submarine-launched diesel twin or a fully autonomous electric tilt rotor or … well, we just never knew. But kudos to Diamond for staying the course and reviving the DA50, Diamond’s large single-engine project.

And the DA50 is big. Stand next to it in the hall, and it’s about the size and feel of a Bonanza A36. I wouldn’t be surprised if the airplane has more cabin volume. For power, Diamond is using Continental’s new CD-300, another diesel engine adapted from the automotive world. This time it’s a V-6, with electronic fuel injection, geared of course, and four valves per cylinder.

Diamond has been here before. Recall that it stunned the Berlin airshow in 2002 with the appearance of the DA42 aimed at a twin market that was all but moribund and it violated a cardinal principle in aviation: Never marry an untried engine to a new airframe. When the Thielert diesel engines developed teething pains, Diamond paid the price in both money and lost prestige. It recovered and true to form, Dries launched his own engine company, Austro, in 2006.

Is it repeating the mistake, eschewing some good engine choices for this class of airplane—the Continental TSIO-550, for example, or Lycoming’s IE2 engine? If Dries were around, he’d deflect such fears and forge ahead relentlessly, dismissing the whiny scribes for even mentioning it.

I suspect Wanfeng will do the same. Next question. And that would be does the world need such an airplane? Whether it does or doesn’t, my experience with Diamond makes some things predictable. The DA50 will probably sell for about the $1 million mark, it will cruise at something like 215 knots at altitude and will carry four people and a bunch of baggage, or five or six on shorter trips. The diesel will give it a 15 percent advantage in fuel burn and the company will reliably sell between 40 and 60 a year, worldwide.

If you don’t believe that, just extrapolate the success of the $1.3 million DA62 twin, of which Diamond has sold more than 120, a few more than I expected. A key question for me is what the CD-300’s initial TBO will be and how would-be buyers will react to it. Look for a video tour of the airplane in our unfolding Aero coverage.

Flight Design

Another revival is Flight Design, a German company with manufacturing in Ukraine that has achieved some success with the CTLS light sport. As I reported, they’re rejiggering that product a little and introducing a new four-place model called the F4.

At the press conference, I initially thought Flight Design has abandoned the C4 it originally announced in 2011, but the company’s Matthias Betsch said no, that airplane remains on a low simmer. The F4 is really a stretched version of the CTLS airframe. When Rotax announced the 135-HP 915iS, we speculated that it would ignite development in new airframes and here we are.

The F4 will be certified under the revised CS23 standard so—theoretically—it will be quicker, easier and cheaper to rush through the hurdles. Maybe. Both Flight Design and Diamond aspire to have these new airplanes certified by the 2020 timeframe, but injecting a dose of realism here, let’s says 2021 or 2022.

Although they’re at opposite ends of the size spectrum, these two airplanes have one thing in common: They’re unusually well sorted out aerodynamically. The CTLS is one of the best flying LSAs on the market, with none of the feather-light control weight that plague many airplanes in this category. If the company carries that through to the F4, it will presumably have the same qualities. Diamond has been similarly adept at tweaking the handling, such that the DA-62 is an absolute thrill to fly. We’ll see if they do the same with the DA50.

Note to Readers: No, it's not something you said. Because of persistent denial of service attacks against AVweb, we're moving the site to another platform. The commenting section will be unavailable for a time. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the site will be better for it in a week or two. In the meantime, if you have a comment, email us and we'll append it to the blog.

Aero Opens With Focus On Electric Aircraft
Paul Bertorelli

With urban mobility aircraft a hot topic in both the developmental and certification worlds, the 27th Aero exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany, opens today with a focus on electric aircraft. Several new electric concept aircraft are on display here and for the first time, the giant electrical equipment manufacturer, Siemens, has a major display touting its partnership with major aerospace players. Look for complete news and video coverage of the show from AVweb this week.

Show organizers say that with 757 exhibitors, Aero has set a new record for commercial participation, besting the 2017 number by 50 companies. Also on display in Friedrichshafen are some new models in the European 600 kg microlight category that’s roughly the equivalent of U.S. light sport aircraft. We’ll have coverage on those airplanes later in the week.

Video: Cool Microlight Carbon Fiber Corsair
Paul Bertorelli

JH Aircraft, a German company, was showing a cool ultralight Corsair at Aero 2019 this week. It's made of carbon fiber, has a three-cylinder radial engine and meets the 120 kg microlight standard. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli got a look at it and shot this show video report.

Japanese F-35 Lost In Training Accident
Marc Cook

Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force is confirming that one of its 13 F-35 fighter jets crashed into the Pacific during a training exercise. The pilot signaled that he was aborting the training exercise minutes after departing Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. His was part of a four-ship flight.

Contact was lost with the aircraft and the pilot, described only as a male in his 40s with a 3200 hours of flying time, has not been found. Aircraft and ships from Japan and the U.S. are continuing the search for the pilot, though debris from the aircraft has been located.

The aircraft was part of Japan’s first F-35 squadron, which entered service 11 days ago, and it was the first to be manufactured by Mitsubishi in Nagoya. The remaining 12 F-35s have been grounded. CNN is quoting former Australian air force officer Peter Layton as suggesting that the call to abort the mission was sufficiently different from a mayday call that the pilot could have felt the situation, whatever it was, was recoverable.

This accident marks only the second of the F-35. In September, a U.S. Marine Corps F-35 crashed in Beaufort, South Carolina. The cause of that crash is believed to be the result of a faulty fuel tube in the engine. All F-35s were grounded briefly for inspection after that accident.

Aero: Three New Models From Tecnam
AVweb Staff

The much-anticipated CS23 revision—or FAR 23 to U.S. aviators—not to mention some tweaking of microlight and ultralight rules in Europe has kicked off the predicted new model development. At Aero on Wednesday, Italian planemaker Tecnam drove home the point by announcing three new variants.

The low-wing P2002 Sierra has been a popular choice for schools using light sport aircraft (ultralights to Europeans) for training. Now Tecnam says the P2002JF is in the final stages of certification under both CS23 and FAR 23 categories, meaning it will be legal for IFR flight in both Europe and the U.S.

Another popular model for Tecnam underwent a major remodel in the form of a carbon fiber fuselage. The P92—a tricycle gear airplane—will be lighter yet with the addition of carbon fiber. It’s powered by a Rotax 912UL. Another version of the Sierra—the MKII—complies with the new European 600 kg ULM category, which is essentially the same as the U.S. light sport aircraft spec but is called a non-certified microlight in Europe. Tecnam says the airplane is available for immediate shipment to countries that have approvals for 600 kg aircraft. AVweb will have more on these Tecnam models later in the week.

Podcast: GAMA President Pete Bunce On The Boeing 737 MAX
Paul Bertorelli

GAMA President Pete Bunce discusses the potential industry-wide impacts of the questions that have arisen regarding the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX including how to balance safety, regulation and providing a pathway for innovation and new certifications. In this podcast from Aero 2019 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, he also talks the economics of sustainable aviation fuel.

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FAA Oversight Of MAX MCAS Changes Questioned
Kate O'Connor

As investigators continue to probe the certification process for the Boeing 737 MAX in the wake of the fatal crashes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610, it is again being suggested that modifications made to the MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristic Augmentation System (MCAS) after it was initially reviewed by the FAA were not thoroughly vetted by the agency. As previously reported by AVweb, the changes in question increased how much the system could move the stabilizer—from roughly 0.6 degrees in a 10-second cycle to 2.5 degrees in a similar timeframe—and allowed it to activate in a wider array of circumstances. Citing an unnamed source, The New York Times reported that the changes were made after flight testing found that the MAX handled "less predictably" than desired "just before a stall at various speeds."

“The change to MCAS didn’t trigger an additional safety assessment because it did not affect the most critical phase of flight, considered to be higher cruise speeds,” an FAA spokesman told theTimes. “At lower speeds, greater control movements are often necessary.” The preliminary accident report on Flight 302 released last Thursday confirmed that the aircraft’s MCAS commanded almost maximum nose-down trim in response to a malfunctioning angle-of-attack sensor. Although final reports have not been released for either accident, similar MCAS behavior was noted in the Lion Air crash.

Along with an audit by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, separate MAX investigations are reportedly being conducted by the FBI, House Transportation Committee and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. On the list of issues under scrutiny is whether the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program, which allows the chronically understaffed FAA to designate authority for activities like design change approvals to outside organizations including the aircraft manufacturers themselves, can create a conflict of interest for safety inspectors.

Boeing is also facing an increasing number of legal challenges related to the 737 MAX. In addition to lawsuits filed on behalf of families of victims killed in both MAX crashes, a Boeing shareholder filed a class action suit (PDF) on Tuesday alleging that the company misled investors about the safety of the MAX and concealed safety issues associated with the aircraft’s handling characteristics. Also this week, China Eastern Airlines, which operates 14 737 MAXs, asked Boeing to provide compensation for service disruptions caused by the grounding of the aircraft after the crash.

Aero: Flight Design Announces New F2 And F4 Models
Paul Bertorelli

Under reorganized management from its parent Lift Air, Flight Design announced a new four-place aircraft at Aero on Wednesday, with ambitious plans to certify in about a year. It also announced a recasting of the existing CTLS line that will include a new modular model capable of being an electric aircraft.

The new four-place model is called the F4 and will be powered by the Rotax 915iS turbocharged engine. It will be certified under FAR 23—CS23 to the rest of the world—and will be based on a stretched, modified and beefed-up version of the CTLS airframe. The panel area will be redesigned and made shallower and the wingspan and fuselage length will be increased slightly. Gross weight is set at 1100 kg (2420 pounds) and performance is predicted to be in the 150- to 160-knot range. No price has been set yet, but Flight Design’s Matthias Betsch said the target is under $300,000.

Does this mean the long-delayed C4 model that Flight Design announced in 2011 is now a goner? Nope, says Betsch, that remains an aspirational product, but is more of a clean sheet than the F4 is. That aircraft is expected to be powered by a Continental engine if and when it ever graduates from development. The F4, meanwhile, will be a full-up IFR airframe, with Garmin G3X touch avionics. It will also have a ballistic parachute.

Because Flight Design still wants to remain in the entry-level market, it will continue to produce two versions of the CTLS, which has proved a popular seller in the U.S. market. The Supersport CTLS will sell for a about $145,000 fully equipped and CTLS GT will carry a $180,000, fully equipped. Extending that model line, says Flight Design, is the F2, which the company has dubbed an MACCS for modular airplane construction and certification system. That means one base model can accommodate several equipment levels and powerplants.

Flight Design says it will produce an F2 version as a European ultralight, an LSA and an EASA TC. The F2e will be an electric version, eventually, and could be a flight school trainer. Look for a video on the F4, which is on display at Aero, later in the week.

Podcast: AOPA's Mark Baker Talks Certification Trends
Paul Bertorelli

AOPA President Mark Baker gave a presentation about some surprising growth trends in pilot certifications at Aero 2019 in Friedrichshafen, Germany. In this podcast, he discusses the relationship between the number of active pilots, pilot salaries and flight training in the U.S. and Europe.

Aero: Piper's M-Class Sales Strong, Factory Bulks Up
Paul Bertorelli

Even as it announced new a new initiative into the piston training market last week, Piper reports that sales of its big-ticket M-Class airplanes continue to show growth, with strong interest coming from Europe. At a press conference on the opening day of the Aero exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany, Piper CEO Simon Caldecott said sales of the M-Class airplanes—the turbine M500 and M600 and the piston-powered M350—are up 36 percent over the previous year.

Piper has had a European sales network for some years, but has announced that a new company, called FlySmart, will begin marketing aircraft in France beginning this year. Meanwhile, Piper said it has received EASA approvals for Garmin’s NXi EFIS system—the follow-up to the original G1000—for the M500.

Caldecott said Piper had a record year in 2018, with 229 aircraft delivered totaling $263 million in sales. That’s a 48 percent increase over 2017 and was driven significantly by trainer sales, including 151 Archers. Caldecott said Piper expects to deliver 180 Archers in 2019.

Growth in 2020 will be boosted in part by the recently announced Pilot 100 and 100i trainers, a low-cost variation on Piper’s venerable PA-28 type certificate announced last week at Sun ‘n Fun. In this podcast recorded at Aero, Caldecott said response to the Pilot program has been “overwhelming” and although the factory has the capacity to produce more aircraft, finding trained workers continues to be limiting. Nonetheless, Piper has invested in new production equipment and technology, including a new line devoted specifically to trainers.

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Aero: Market Will Drive 100LL Replacement, Not Regulation
Paul Bertorelli

With the current EPA administration seen as unlikely to issue a finding of endangerment against the tetraethyl lead used in aviation fuel, its eventual demise may have to come at the hands of consumers. That was one message from a 100LL briefing held at Aero in Friedrichshafen, Germany, this week.

Conducted by Shell’s Tim Shea and Michael Kraft of Lycoming, the briefing covered the history of the TEL issue and, more recently, delays caused first by the temporary suspension of the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative and more recently by the government shutdown earlier this year. Shea said because of that delay, testing has only just resumed on a limited basis. The PAFI process stalled last year when it was revealed that inconsistencies in the candidate fuels would make a drop-in replacement for 100LL unlikely.

The industry has been seeking an unleaded replacement for 100LL since the mid-1980s, but the effort took on urgency about 10 years ago when it appeared that the FAA would act to ban lead. But that action is seen as unlikely now because of the environmental policies of the current administration. Lycoming’s Kraft said the maintenance benefits of unleaded fuel—less spark plug fouling, cleaner oil and less corrosion—will have to be sold to owners as a plus, thus driving market demand rather than relying on regulatory pressure to force the change.

Shea said now that PAFI has resumed testing on two candidate fuels, it’s unlikely that a qualified fuel will emerge before the end of 2020. Shea was noncommittal on what a replacement fuel might cost, but Shell’s current estimates suggest it will be comparable to 100LL.

Honeywell And Volocopter Partner On Air Taxi Systems
Kate O'Connor

Honeywell Aerospace has announced that it will be partnering with Volocopter to jointly develop and test navigation and automatic landing systems for Volocopter's electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi. Honeywell says it will be bringing its autonomous sensing and flight technologies—including inertial measurement units and attitude heading reference solutions—to the table for the project along with aviation hardware and software products such as navigation technologies and fly-by-wire flight controls “tailored for the unique needs of [urban air mobility (UAM)] aircraft.” According to the company, its solutions will build on technology developed under Europe's Clean Sky 2 and Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) 2020 programs.

"Honeywell's wealth of experience and knowledge in the development of next-generation avionics technologies combined with our manufacturing expertise will make autonomous, on-demand air mobility a reality across the world,” said Volocopter chief technology officer Jan Hendrik Boelens. “A key goal of our collaboration is to fly a Honeywell inertial measurement-based attitude reference system solution in one of our Volocopters in 2019."

Volocopter’s eVTOL completed its first public unmanned test flight in Dubai in September 2017 and the aircraft flew for the first time in the U.S. in January 2018 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company plans to begin urban flight tests in Singapore in the second half of 2019.

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