March 2009 Issue
Austro Diesel: Certified and Building
Hardly had we heard about this engine before it was certified and being produced in Austria. Will it succeed where Thielert stumbled?
Back in the day when aeronautical engineers actually wore ties—skinny black ones—and ran calcs on wooden slide rules, it was accepted wisdom that to develop a new airframe and fit it with a new, untried engine was to court disaster. Diamond Aircraft proved the point in the digital age with its DA42 Twin Star. The Twin Star proved a terrific airframe and a strong seller. But the four-cylinder Thielert diesel engine Diamond selected as the powerplant turned out to be just the disaster the guys in the skinny ties worried about. Owners complained of high maintenance incidence, long downtimes and last spring, Thielert went bankrupt, beaching hundreds of owners who needed parts and engines. Moreover, during its initial recovery, Thielert quoted parts and replacement engine prices that raised hourly engine reserves to $100 or more—per engine, without fuel. Although Thielert seems to be getting back on its feet, Diamond went its own way and established the Austro Engine Company in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, next door to Diamond’s factory. After what must be one of the fastest engine development cycles in recent history, Austro announced in late January that it has EASA certification for its 168-HP AE 300 diesel engine and production is already underway. (AE 300 is the marketing nomenclature; the type certificate calls the engine the E4.) The good news for Twin Star owners stranded by Thielert’s cratering is that in the Austro, they now have a choice in replacement engines. The new engine delivers more power and is more fuel efficient, according to Diamond. The bad news is that it will be a number of months before retrofits are available for Twin Stars and the single-engine DA40 TDI. Diamond’s Peter Maurer told us in February that the factory has the capacity to produce replacement engines for existing DA42s or soon will. But the initial production will go to new DA42 NG models (next generation) not to retrofits because Diamond won’t have approvals for retrofits until later in the year. Meanwhile, certification work on the Lycoming-powered version of the DA42 is nearly complete, so owners may soon have the option of three engine choices.
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