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Diamond Dart-550 among competitors to replace Belgian Air Force SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 basic trainer.

| 2020

In late October, Belgium sent a delegation of three personnel to the Wiener Neustadt headquarters of Austria’s Diamond Aircraf to receive a presentation of the Dart-550 tandem two-seater turboprop aircraft, David Donald reports on AirOnLine. The Dart-550 is one of the basic trainers being considered to replace the old SIAI-Marchetti SF-260.

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Diamond Dart 550 among competitors to replace Belgian Air Force SIAI Marchetti SF 260 basic trainer 1

A Diamond test pilot and Colonel Aviator Patrick “Goose” Goossens (right) of the Belgian Air Force pose with the Dart-550 demonstrator after a flight from Wiener Neustadt (Picture source: Diamond Aircraft)

The delegation sent by the Belgian Air Component (Belgian Air Force, BAF) and the Directorate of Material Resources (DGMR) received a technical briefing and learned about the ground-based training system and support package that is offered by Diamond. Colonel Aviator Patrick “Goose” Goossens, the former head of training for the BAF and now head of the future pilot training workgroup, flew the aircraft. According to Diamond, he was pleased with the Dart-550’s stability and ease of handling.

The Dart will be a certified all-carbon fiber turboprop trainer in tandem seat configuration, equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, ejection seats and a powerful turboprop engine. The aerobatic trainer will be available in different variants and with different engine power ratings, seat configuration and/or avionics options for diverse customer needs.

Diamond Dart 550 among competitors to replace Belgian Air Force SIAI Marchetti SF 260 basic trainer 2

Garmin G3000 dual glass cockpit: Touchscreen control, 14.1-inch diagonal WXGA high-resolution cockpit displays, 5.7-inch high-resolution GTC 570, Synthetic Vision Technology, extended 16:9 width-to-height ratio (Picture source: Diamond Aircraft)

The Dart's cockpit concept includes a real and fully independent tandem G3000 dual glass cockpit with a bird strike proof canopy, electrically adjustable seat height and an optimized ejection system. The MK.16 lightweight escape system is designed to train students in basic flying skills. It optimizes the pilot field of view, improves comfort and pilot efficiency, and provides increased reliability and maintainability. The ejection performance is optimized throughout the escape envelope, from zero height at zero velocity in a near level altitude through to 370 knots.

The Dart-550 is an outgrowth of the Dart-450, which made its first flight in May 2016. Whereas the 450 is powered by an Ivchenko Progress/Motor Sich AI-450S turboprop rated at 495 shp, the Dart-550 introduces a 550-shp General Electric H75-100 turboprop. The 2,400-kg mtow Dart-550 has an endurance of up to eight hours and is fitted with Garmin G3000 avionics and Martin-Baker Mk 16 ejection seats. It first took to the air on May 24, 2018, and was exhibited at that year's Farnborough air show.

Belgium has been operating the SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 piston-engined basic trainer since 1969, when 36 SF-260Ms were bought, David Donald recalls. They were augmented by a batch of nine SF-260Ds in the early 1990s. The « survivors » fly with 5 and 9 Squadrons of the Competence Center-Air located at Beauvechain Air Base.

Diamond Dart 550 among competitors to replace Belgian Air Force SIAI Marchetti SF 260 basic trainer

SIAI-Marchetti SF-260M of the 5th Sqn, 1st Wing, at Beauvechain Air Base (Picture source: Army Recognition)

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