July 2009 Issue

First Word: 07/09


As this issue ships off to the printer, I’m just back from London, Ontario where I test flew Diamond’s new Lycoming-powered L360. It went just as I expected it would—the airplane flew well, performed as the company said it would and I landed it without breaking it. I had flown the proof-of-concept version of this airplane in Austria four years ago when Diamond was deciding whether to proceed with diesels or the gasoline engines, or both. The company did what the market told them to: They dropped the Lycoming version and steamed full ahead with the diesel version, then powered by the Thielert 1.7 Centurion engines. Given that the Thielert engines turned out to be a maintenance nightmare, did Diamond jump the gun on diesels and make the wrong decision? Here’s why I think they did not. Although Diamond has inarguably proved that there’s market interest in diesel engines, what it has not yet proved is whether diesels are up to the task. But that process had to start somewhere or otherwise, as Dick Rutan once colorfully said, we would still be traveling cross country peering at the hindquarters of oxen. Despite the withering setback that the Thielert fiasco represents, Diamond is still way out in front of everyone else and it has more meaningful diesel experience than any airplane manufacturer on the planet.

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