Plane & Pilot
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


Santa Paula’s runway appeared, and I slowed this slippery bird to 80 knots. The DA40 fools pilots into flaring too high because of the panoramic visibility. I crossed the numbers at 75 and landed in what felt like a pretty flat attitude. The flaps on the 39-foot laminar-flow wings were quite effective as we touched down and rolled to a stop. We taxied in front of a Tiger Moth and swung the free-castering nosewheel into a spot near a Stearman. The DA40 was quite at home.

What I find most endearing about this airplane is that it doesn’t divorce the pilot from the flying equation. Instead of trying to ease the demand on pilots to the point of near-elimination, the XLS leaves the pilot in full control. The option to experience every nuance of flight is preserved in the DA40 while the technology is there if you need, or choose, to use it. From the superb control harmony afforded by the direct-linkage controls, to the manual trim wheel and the performance-management options, the DA40 XLS remains a pilot’s airplane.

Back at Long Beach, as we climbed out of the DA40, I briefly thought about grabbing the keys and making a run for it. Maybe I could live on the lam, flying the XLS from beach strip to beach strip in some unnamed country, savoring every minute. Then again, I’m not the lawless type, and anyway, there are still new airplanes to explore, tailwheels to fly, biplanes to love. Yet, as I walked away from the XLS—its cooling exhaust ticking loudly in the cavernous hangar—I looked back. I couldn’t help but think that a little corner of my heart would always belong to the DA40 XLS—a pilot’s airplane for sure.

SAFETY & SUCCESS THE DIAMOND WAY

Safety is the new buzzword for success in today’s aviation market, and Diamond is raising the bar

The ongoing success of Diamond Aircraft, and the DA40 in particular, is invigorating for aviation. Technically advanced aircraft from several manufacturers are changing the way we fly and what we look for in our airplanes. Today’s airplane buyers are completely different from those of even 15 years ago, and their level of sophistication and knowledge is unprecedented.

“Airplane buyers are extremely well-researched,” says Jeff Owen, regional sales manager for Premier Aircraft Sales (www.premieraircraftsales.com) in Florida and an expert on Diamond aircraft. “They ask extraordinarily intelligent questions.” Owen cites safety as the number-one factor in the airplane buying decision. “It’s absolutely, 100% safety,” he notes.

For potential buyers, the safety component is made of two parts: how the airplane prevents accidents and, if something does happen, how the design of the aircraft adds to the survivability of the occupants. Diamond has made considerable investment in automotive-like crash and drop testing. The company has studied the resulting data and implemented features like 26-G-capable seats, protected fuel cells, unobstructed head-strike zones and a composite fuselage that has no life limit.

The XLS features the newest inflatable aviation restraints from AmSafe—the same as are used aboard Air Force One. The aviation insurance industry has taken notice of Diamond’s focus on safety and the DA40’s exemplary safety record. The result is attractive insurance rates for Diamond buyers.

Safety is the main reason Dennis Benbow and his son, Jordan, purchased the XLS last November. Benbow is a pilot who hasn’t flown for many years but wants his son to earn his certificate and eventually use the DA40 as a business tool. Benbow’s main concern was that the airplane be as safe as possible while still being advanced enough to use for regional travel. The XLS fit the bill perfectly.

The DA40 has been selected by the U.S. Air Force Academy as the primary trainer for its Powered Flight Program. Training academies such as Embry-Riddle and several flight universities have selected Diamonds as their training aircraft, both for their safety and considerable fuel economy. In 2008, a pilot named Marc Aurel Lehman—who had only been flying a couple of years—piloted his DA40 around the world in 150 flying hours, including a 2,250 nm nonstop leg from Japan to Alaska!






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