March 18, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Diamond Aircraft officials are protesting the award of a contract to Cirrus Aircraft for 25 Cirrus SR20s to be used by the U.S Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. The protest is based on past performance by a fleet of Diamond training aircraft already in use for Air Force training, operating cost, environmental impact, and safety.
Cirrus was awarded a $6.9 million contract for 25 aircraft by the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on March 8. A two-year-old fleet of 20 Diamond DA40 piston-engine aircraft is currently flown in the U.S. Air Force Academy Powered Flight Program. A fleet of Diamond DA20 trainer aircraft is used for the U.S. Air Force Initial Flight Screening Program in nearby Pueblo, Colo. DA20s were once used at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Air Force officials told Diamond officials that the DA40 was eliminated on price, and the DA20 was eliminated because the Air Force didn’t accept Diamond’s substantiation of climb performance and structural repair instructions, both of which had been compliant with requirements for the previous two contracts. Diamond’s protest is aimed at the elimination of the DA20 by the Air Force.
“We are aware of the protest,” said Todd Simmons, Cirrus Aircraft vice president of marketing. “We are fully confident in the U.S. Air Force evaluation process. Diamond references a model of the past. That was a different airplane. For this competition, we entered a 2011 SR20 Generation Three trainer configuration. The SR20 in 2000 was a first generation airplane—a different airplane.”
Diamond officials have asked the Air Force to investigate the acquisition, and to stop the current acquisition process.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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