Plane & Pilot
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Diamond Goes Glass

First to market with the Garmin G1000, the new DA40 Star is out of the gate

Diamond Goes GlassNo one manufacturer takes the industry by storm these days. Beech did it with the Bonanza in the ’40s and ’50s, Cessna rocked general aviation with the Skyhawk and Skylane in the ’60s, and Mooney rescued itself from bankruptcy with the outstanding 201 in the ’70s, but today’s market is so much smaller that any runaway success is unlikely, if not impossible. But Diamond is set to change all that. " />

The G1000 isn’t that tough to master, especially for those pilots already schooled in operating the popular Garmin GNS 430/530 systems. Controls are reasonably intuitive, with the switching panel and transponder incorporated into the flat-screen displays.

Cessna is installing the system in the 182/T182 and 206/T206 for 2004. Don’t be surprised if you see the G1000 in other manufacturers’ airplanes before the end of the year.

With or without the Garmin G1000 system, the DA40 Star represents a considerable step up from fixed-gear, four-seat singles of even a few years ago. The forward-hinged canopy opens up both front seats for easy entry, and the separate, gull-wing left-side door opens up and to the right, providing friendly access to the rear buckets.

The cabin measures a full 45 inches across, making the Star wider than everything in the class except the SOCATA Tobago. Joysticks replace yokes to free up more of the instrument panel, a special benefit with the flat-panel Garmin G1000 system.

Like the Columbia 300/350 and Cirrus SR-20/22, more than coincidentally also 21st-century designs, the DA40 utilizes extensive carbon-fiber construction, offering airframe and wing surfaces as smooth as a waxed watermelon. In combination with the efficient European Wortmann FX-63-137/20 laminar flow airfoil, one result is that the DA40 turns in the best climb and cruise speed in the class.

Climb is especially notable, partially a function of the high-aspect ratio and high wing-loading. Vy is a surprising 63 knots in a fairly flat attitude, but most pilots will be more comfortable with 80 knots or more for the ascent.

Either way, the Star’s upward mobility is impressive. At 1,070 fpm, it’s 150 fpm better than the next closest rival and a surprising 500 fpm quicker than the worst airplane in the class. Equally important for pilots based in the West, where rocks can reach three miles into the sky, the Diamond Star’s 15,000-foot service ceiling allows for reasonable climb numbers in high-density situations.


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