“We are being bullied,” says flying school owner.
A small flying school at Rochester Airport is suing a giant Austrian aircraft manufacturer for around 100,000 over the ineffectiveness of two aircraft.
This David versus Goliath case could take between three and five years before Millen Aviation Services know whether its action against Diamond Aircraft Industries has been successful.
Meanwhile, Millen Aviation Services boss, Mike Millen, says he is lumbered with two DA40, four-seater diesel turbo aircraft which are “unfit for purpose”.
“We also operate several non-Diamond aircraft,” he said.
The aircraft, each costing 185,000 new, were leased by Millen Aviation Services in June and August 2004, since when they have been available for just 76% of the time, costing the Millen family nearly 100,000 in lost revenue due to unplanned downtime. The operational availability for commercial aircraft is expected at 97% plus and Airbus guarantee an operational availability of 99% for the first two years on their A380.
Mike Millen and his son, Russell, have had little success in getting satisfaction from Diamond in Austria and through its subsidiary in Nottinghamshire.
“Initially they said we may have teething troubles, but, we still get many of the same problems after three and a half years. The problems have never stopped and the unreliability of these two aircraft is having a serious effect on our business,” said Mike.
The volume and variety of occurrences have been extremely considerable
They include, but are not limited to: Engine sensor failures, nose leg fractures, Engine Management System (ECU) failures and seven engines in total by the time that both aircraft had reached 1000 hours.
“The engines are actually warranted for 2,400 hours so they are not proving to be anywhere close to as reliable as we were led to believe before we leased them,” said Mike.
Representing the Millens is lawyer, David Brown, a partner at Gullands solicitors in Maidstone, who said: "We have instructed lawyers in Austria to act for us in the Austrian courts, and this process could take between three and five years.
"The case has now been lodged at the Austrian court. On 15th January 2008 the lawyers acting for the manufacturer filed an answer to the Millens action, which contained a general denial to each claim. The first step in the legal procedure will deal with evidence and then liability."
The two aircraft, subject of the action, are used for hiring and for flying lessons.
"We maintain that there was insufficient research, development and testing of the aircraft and their Thielert Diesel 1.7 engines before they went into production. Their current unreliability makes them unfit for purpose.
"Our claim is for the lost income due to excessive downtime, and for the lease to be terminated without financial penalties, which we would have to pay if we just handed the aircraft back to the leasing company. We had, prior to this action, asked for them to be replaced with new aircraft but this was not accepted.
“Diamond is a big corporation and we feel we are being bullied. We look forward to our day in court, because after all this time, the amount of evidence is overwhelming. The information collected includes maintenance records, for our aircraft, produced by Diamond UK and statements from other Diamond aircraft operators, both of which identify a number of the issues concerned. We are hoping they will see sense before that and settle our claim,” said Mike.
For further information pleas contact Mike Millen 07859039122
Note to editors: Both Millens lawyers in England (Gullands of Maidstone) and their Austrian counterparts have approved the release as far as legalities are concerned.