Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Diamond's Family Star

Diamond’s innovative, four-place Star offers performance and efficiency beyond its price

Fixed-gear singles have assumed the mantle that once belonged to retractables. Back in general aviation's modern heyday, the late '70s and early '80s, there were at least a dozen retractable models on the market. Today, there are only two, the Piper Arrow and Beech A36 Bonanza.

Retractables no longer have the cachet they had 30 years ago. It's significant that all three of the four-seaters introduced in the last 15 years have been configured with fixed gear. The Klapmeier brothers' Cirrus SR20 and SR22, Lance Neibauer's Columbia 350 and 400 (now the Cessna Corvalis TTX) and the Diamond DA40 Star are all built with the wheels permanently down and laminated.

There's a reason retractables have gone out of style. Fixed-gear models are generally lighter, stronger, inherently safer, more resilient and far less complex, both to build and to maintain. The simpler gear legs don't compromise fuel-tank design, can be placed in the optimum location for CG and structural concerns and, when properly positioned and intelligently faired, don't significantly downgrade the airplane's aerodynamics. As if all that wasn't enough, fixed-gear airplanes are less costly to buy, operate and insure.

The Diamond Star XLS is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with a well-designed, fixed-gear, four-seat single. Since its introduction a dozen years ago as the first design of the new millennium, the Star has been a consistent winner for Diamond Aircraft of Wiener-Neustadt, Austria, and London, Ontario, Canada. So far, Diamond has delivered just over 1,200 Stars.

The DA40 uses the Lycoming IO-360-M1A, a chronograph of an engine that's as durable as anything short of a turbine. The –M1A is rated for 180 hp and 2,200 hours between overhauls, but it's been known to run well past that standard TBO. In Part 91 operation, some owners have reportedly logged as much as 3,000 hours between majors. That's reliability practically in turbine country.

The durable, four-cylinder Lyc has roots all the way back to the '60s, and it has been employed on dozens of general-aviation singles and twins, both in the U.S. and overseas. It's an engine renowned for a near-Kevlar reputation, good economy and consistent power.

Diamond has gone through several iterations of propeller for the Star, two and three-blade tractor designs of composite and aluminum construction. Today, the choices are the standard, three-blade, composite, MT tractor or the optional, two-blade, semi-scimitar Hartzell, both constant-speed props. Diamond credits the Hartzell with some of the airplane's impressive climb and cruise performance, and that's the way our demonstrator was equipped.


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