Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Diamond DA40 XLS: Premier Edition

Premier Aircraft of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has created its own ultra version of the Diamond DA40 XLS

The Premier 1 package offers a PowerPlus standby alternator system for backup electrical power, a new Hartzell three-blade composite propeller and much more.
The basic Premier 1 package includes: 1) a PowerPlus standby alternator system for backup electrical power; 2) a new Hartzell, semi-scimitar, three-blade, composite propeller for better climb and cruise performance; 3) a LoPresti Boom Beam in each wing tip for enhanced night and daytime visibility; 4) improved all-leather, memory-foam upholstery featuring new color choices, piping accents and stitching patterns; 5) new thicker carpet with improved choices; 6) additional exterior striping and 7) Diamond logos embossed on the headrests and a personalized owner plaque on the instrument panel. Price is $16,495.

Finally, especially for their South Florida customers (and denizens of other ultrawarm climates), the Premier group developed an additional option known as Package 2. Premier certified a vapor-cycle air-conditioning system, an automotive-style unit that delivers 55-degree F air at the vent source. The air conditioner adds 60 pounds to empty weight (and deducts a like amount from payload), but if you live in those parts of the world that suffer stifling heat for much of the year, A/C can be more than worth the price.

The whole idea was to offer a buyer the chance to personalize a DA40 for his or her mission. Even with the heavier leather, thicker carpeting and all the other additions, useful load doesn't suffer adversely, at least in contrast to other four seaters. Skip the air-conditioning option (as Premier did on my demonstrator), and you wind up with an 800-pound useful load, enough for full fuel and 500 pounds for people and stuff.

You climb aboard a Star in what seems an unconventional manner, over the front of the wing. The boarding step extrudes from the fuselage ahead of the wing rather than behind it. This obviously makes it extremely unwise to board with the engine running, but most pilots agree that's a dumb idea anyway.

Once you're on the left wing-walk, you have a choice of two doors for access to the cabin. The main hatch is hinged at the front, and folds up and forward to uncover the two front seats, whereas rear passengers can enter via their own clamshell door at aft left. Perhaps best of all, the pilot can close the door on aft passengers before entering the airplane. The Star is the only four-seat production airplane I know of that offers separate doors for front and rear entry.

Seated in the left front, you're looking out at the longest wings you've ever seen in a four-seat single, 39.5 feet from tip to tip. (Check your hangar dimensions before signing the lease.) You're also straddling a conventional joystick rather than addressing a yoke or a side stick—great fun. You're enclosed by 26G seats fixed to the floor, but with adjustable rudder pedals. The stick isn't adjustable for fore-aft travel, by the way, so you had best hope your arms are the right length. The cabin also features seat-belt air bags for greater crash protection, and the airplane boasts one of the best safety records of any single. It may be heartening that the Star is one of the very few (only?) composite aircraft without an airframe or wing-life limit.


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