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Mon, Jul 23, 2007

Diamond Excites AirVenture Crowd With New DA50 SuperStar

Five-Place Aircraft Makes American Debut At AirVenture

Sporting a winglet-tipped 38-foot wingspan and four-blade propeller, Diamond managers unveiled the 350-horsepower DA50 at AirVenture Monday afternoon.

Quick-hit details include several firsts for this industry segment, such as single-lever FADEC control for a turbocharged engine and three-screen Garmin G1000 avionics package. Cabin width is a class-leading 52 inches and gross weight is projected to be 3560 lbs. The nose wheel is a free-castering unit similar to those featured on other Diamond models.

Diamond managers believe the DA50 will serve as a market stopgap, filling the void for a composite single with more than four seats. "We looked at the piston-single market, and saw a sweet spot: a plane with room for more than four people, a high-performance plane made to fly with a FADEC turbo engine," stated Diamond’s VP of Marketing, Heike Larson.

Synchronous with the movement to make airplanes feel more like luxury cars, Diamond went all-out to make the DA50 prototype look production ready.

"As with a 5 Series BMW, owners of aircraft like this expect a certain level of luxury," said Larson. "[The DA50] is a great plane for anybody who wants more space, luxury, and performance." (BMW is a popular comparison at Oshkosh this year... earlier in the day, Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn compared the new Eclipse Concept Jet to a 3-Series.)

In the DA50, wood trim is splashed throughout the interior (including the center-mounted control sticks), further adding to the automotive motif. Optional features such as automatic air conditioning and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system are available as well.

A TKS "icing protection system" will be optional, but known-ice certification is not currently planned. When pressed for comment on the issue of icing certification, Diamond president Peter Maurer said "We’ll take a look at known-ice certification, but the fixed landing gear complicates [the certification process] which adds expense and complexity that may not add value for our clients."

Other options will include a BRS airframe parachute, long-range fuel tanks, and the aforementioned air conditioning and entertainment systems. Production certification for Europe is expected in mid-2008, and for the United States in mid-2009. Base price is expected to be around $600,000. Diamond has begun taking $15,000 deposits for "priority loyalty" positions.

Oshkosh visitors, such as Jerry and Robyn Gonsoulin of Houma, LA, were impressed.

"This thing is great, just great. We came to see the D-Jet and had no idea this was going to be here," said Jerry. "I believe [the DA50] is good enough that I may consider it before a small jet. It has the space, the ease of entry, and the features I am looking for."

FMI: www.diamondair.com

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