Tuesday, February 24, 2009
DA 40 XLS: The Innovator Keeps Getting Better
With the addition of Garmin’s Synthetic Vision Technology and other improvements, the popular composite four-seater reaches a wider audience
The cabin of the DA40 XLS features a sports car–like interior with a center-stick design that appears to grow out of the seats
Climbing into the DA40, the first thing that everybody notices is the visibility. I had flown airplanes with good visibility before, but this surpassed them all. Lack of windshield support posts or divisions, combined with a low sill height, gives the cockpit an IMAX theater feel. The ample rear windows and gull-wing rear passenger door prevent the claustrophobic feel of many passenger compartments.
Standard in the XLS are front air-bag seat belts. The seats aren’t adjustable, and my 5’7” stature could have used another inch or two of support to see over the panel. One nice feature that wasn’t on the older DA40s is the electric rudder-pedal adjustment. The range of motion is impressive, and I think even my nine-year-old could reach these with the flick of a switch.
The aircraft is equipped with Garmin’s G1000 glass panel, and Synthetic Vision Technology offers a 3-D view of surrounding terrain and potential obstacles.
Because this was to be a typical mission, we decided to fly 55 nm to Santa Paula Airport to mingle with the taildraggers and grab some dinner. Santa Paula is a sort of haven for classic aircraft, and we thought it might be good to see how the Diamond would stack up in such a rough-and-tumble environment.
It’s impossible to report on the DA40 without talking about safety. Safety is a hallmark for Diamond, and the company’s development in this area is impressive. The NTSB’s raw data confirms the undeniable fact that Diamond makes aircraft that are safe by design. I decided to do some research on my own to confirm the manufacturer’s numbers. The evidence is quite compelling. According to the NTSB, since 1998 when the DA40 was introduced, there have been only two fatal accidents involving the DA40. In fact, in the past 11 years, there have been only eight total accidents involving the DA40. The two fatal accidents were attributed to “buzzing” a boat at night and to hitting power lines on an approach to minimums.
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