Diamond Aircraft soars as orders double

Diamond Aircraft will double its production next year, after adding more than 100 workers, the plant’s chief executive says.

Diamond Aircraft will double its production next year, after adding more than 100 workers, the plant’s chief executive says.

Production at the airplane manufacturer will soar in 2019 to 150 planes – the plant will make 75 by the end of this year – as global demand is growing, Scott McFadzean said.

But the production increase may pale in comparison to what is coming because the London business is now serving the Chinese market that is expected to “explode,” he said.

“We are building for the global market and we used to build just for the North American market. The emerging economies want to travel, such as in China. The scale of that is huge compared to Western countries.”

There is tremendous demand for pilot training globally and the London-made planes serve that market, meaning more flight schools are opening and need aircraft. Some forecasts say 750,000 pilots will be needed over the next 20 years, McFadzean said.

“There is a global pilot shortage. It is a double whammy, the industry was not producing new pilots enough and baby boomers are starting to retire and they want to travel.”

It all filters down to mean business is booming at Diamond that has “one of the best flight training aircraft on the market,” McFadzean said.

Diamond now employs about 270, and is still searching for more workers, especially skilled trades, he said.

“It is really exciting to see growth at Diamond and it helps diversify manufacturing locally,” said Kapil Lakhotia, chief executive of the London Economic Development Corp.

“The aviation training program at Fanshawe (College) has been growing and fuelling this growth along with new support and resources from (Diamond’s) Chinese owner.”

Diamond is also celebrating its largest single order to date. Republic Airways In Indiana last week opened its flight school and has ordered 110 planes from the London plant, a contract worth more than $35 million, McFadzean said.

The school is flying the DA-40, a single-engine four-seater, and the DA42, a twin-engine four-seater, and it also bought simulators.

“Their complete fleet will be all Diamond,” McFadzean said. “Right now we are busy producing planes for training and for the flight market.”

Republic Airways signed the deal in the spring and will take deliver of the first 50 over the year.

But the Chinese market looms as a massive opportunity. Diamond Aircraft Group was bought by Wanfeng Aviation in December and has a high profile in China. The London plant has been busy supplying the Chinese market. It is also taking the lead on building a factory in China to produce planes and parts for that market.

“We are setting up a new factory in China, we have the experience to do it,” McFadzean said of why the work is being done from here.

“It will serve tremendous growth in the Chinese market. We have a lot of opportunity.”

China is just “at the cusp” of the aviation market, McFadzean said. It has only about 300 general aviation planes registered now, and in the United States there are 300,000.

“In the next 25 years, the air space will be opened there, we will see a general explosion of aviation and we are well positioned, we have more aircraft there now than any other manufacturer,” he said.

The London plant on Crumlin Sideroad assembles the DA20, a single-engine two-seater; the DA40; the DA42; and recently started also making the DA62, a seven-passenger plane that up to now has only been made at Diamond’s Austrian plant.

McFadzean has been chief executive since January, succeeding Peter Maurer, who retired.

McFadzean credits the growth in composite training programs, especially at Fanshawe College, for supplying workers to Diamond.

“Fanshawe College’s aviation program has been a huge help for us. We hire a lot of their graduates. It is excellent,” he said.

“Our biggest challenge is getting good, skilled people. The labour pool in London is pretty shallow right now. All manufacturers are talking about it now, we can’t get the people we need with the skills we need.”

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