August 3, 2011:
Diamond Executive Aviation has received its first DA42MPP multi-purpose aerial sensing aircraft and now has plans to expand its operations to bases in Italy.
The latest aircraft arrived at the company's Retford base at the end of June after a five hours 45 minute non-stop flight from the factory in Wiener Neustadt.
The delivery flight was carried out by Captain Chris Dawes and flight officer Sam Weston, and was escorted by a DA42NG piloted by Henrik Burkal, managing director of distributor Diamond Aircraft UK.
The DA42MPP has the ability to support a wide range of external sensors and has several features specifically added to support surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
With electronic Stormscope weather detection and a traffic alerting system, both of which are displayed on the G1000 flight management system in real time, the aircraft is able to handle convective weather and conflicting traffic with ease, says DEA. It has been earmarked for a variety of pilot projects and evaluation programmes, some of which are being directly managed by DEA and some jointly between Diamond Aircraft UK and DEA.
Last year DEA and Radiola Aerospace of New Zealand signed a five-year agreement to develop the DA42 as a platform for flight inspection. Two aircraft were fully modified and now carry another 12 aerials, enhanced power supplies, TCAS and strengthened load bays to carry the $500,000 flight inspection test systems.
In December DEA was granted a flight inspection extension to its AOC by the CAA and has since flown over 70,000 miles on flight inspection with over 50 inspections and calibrations so far. With regular journeys to the Sahara, Morocco, Albania and the Middle East, including new radio beacons near Baghdad, the flying has been 'interesting at times', especially being followed out of the Baghdad area by a predator drone.
As EBAN went to press Radiola was expecting to have received CAP670 approval, which DEA's ceo Peter Bondar describes as "the CAA's gold standard for flight inspection in the UK, and arguably the most demanding standard anywhere in the world." This will allow the marketing of the DEA/Radiola solution in the UK.
In addition to this, DEA has provided unaccompanied donor flights working with brokers such as Flight Serve, Fly Me Now and Aviastra on UK contracts. "Today around 65% of our time is spent flying passengers, small freight and donor flights with the rest for flight inspection," says Bondar. "We have announced our plans to operate in Italy and the first two aircraft are being prepared. This operation has received regulatory acceptance from the CAA, and bases will be in Rome Urbe and Padova Aeritalia airport.
"Passengers love the DA42," he adds. "Clearly it's a small and relatively intimate aircraft, therefore for customers who want to be 'involved' in the flight, it is very good, while for those who would like to be remote and detached clearly this is not the correct aircraft.
"Our conversion rate and repeat business rate is very high. A number of well-known individuals have flown with us on a regular basis; TV personalities, authors, footballers, comedians and so on."
DEA provides inflight satellite tracking for its customers which means that friends, families and brokers can be involved in the whole flight process. "This was one of the spin-offs from our very demanding flight inspection approvals process," says Bondar.
The company is planning for the future development of its fleet, but favours limiting the number of different aircraft types.
Coincidentally, the DA42's manufacturer Diamond Aircraft has recently secured new funding to resume the development of the D-JET. Flight testing and building a second test aircraft are now expected to resume imminently.