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. " />

While it’s true the Cirrus SR-20 does better with 20 more horses under the cowl, the fixed-gear Star’s performance is nearly the equal of some early 200-hp retractables, specifically the Piper Arrow, Beech Sierra and Commander 112. The long span, short chord, NLF wing is in its element at tall altitudes and manages to deliver good cruise two miles above the sea.

With an optional 52 gallons in the tanks and a max cruise burn of just over 10 gph, the Star offers a 75% endurance of four hours, worth about 560 nm at a sitting. The four-cylinder Lycoming scores a specific fuel consumption (sfc) of .41 lbs./hp/hr., so full-throttle cruise at 10,000 feet exacts about 60% power and burns 7.6 gph in exchange for 134 knots. That’s better than 20 smpg, better than most SUVs and twice as fast. With such numbers, you can extend the airplane’s reach to nearly 700 nm after five hours in the air.

The DA40’s control response throughout the speed range probably isn’t that much more enthusiastic than in a standard yoke-controlled airplane, but it just feels better with a joystick for roll and pitch control. Roll rate is probably about 45 degrees per second, quick enough to satisfy most pilots who aren’t into unlimited aerobatics. The pitch response is predictably quicker, but not so fast as to compromise its structural integrity.

The Star is technically certified for in-flight loads in the normal category, although the composite structure can probably far exceed the standard 3.8/5.6 G limits. (Indeed, Diamond went the extra mile in crashworthiness. The airplane features crush zones beneath the cockpit, intended to compress at a rate that will protect the occupants. Specifically, the Star’s fuselage is constructed to withstand 26 G’s.) In more normal circumstances, landings are a total non event. The stall is easily predictable at a dirty 45 knots with gentle, but recognizable, pre-stall buffet, so approaches are possible as slow as 60 knots without violating the 1.3 Vso rule. A more reasonable number for final is 65 to 70 knots if there’s no need to plonk it on and stop it short.

Unlike other companies that are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the general-aviation market, Diamond Aircraft is pursuing an aggressive program of marketing new models. By the time you read this, the innovative, diesel-powered Twin Star will be certified, flying behind a pair of 135-horsepower Thielert diesel engines, directed by the aforementioned Garmin G1000 system and priced around $360,000. The Austrian company also is hard at work on the D-Jet, a five-place, personal, mini-jet designed on the premise that less is more. The Diamond jet is being configured to deliver just over 300 knots at 25,000 feet, employing a single, Williams, 1,400-pound thrust, FJ-33 turbine. The first flight is scheduled for October, certification for 2006 and the price will be about $1 million in 2004 dollars.

Such confidence in the future serves Diamond Aircraft Industries very well. For the nonce, the new Garmin G1000-equipped DA40 Star is hard evidence of what can be accomplished with composite structures, a slick airframe and wing combination, and some of the most innovative avionics available in the business.

For more information, contact: Diamond Aircraft Industries, (519) 457-4000 or log on to www.diamondair.com.

SPECS: 2004 Diamond DA40 Star N59GA



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