Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Diamond's Family Star
Diamond’s innovative, four-place Star offers performance and efficiency beyond its price
Perhaps the first thing you notice when you step over the sidewall and settle into the seat is a stick for roll and pitch control. By today's standards, when some manufacturers are switching to stylish side sticks and others continue to equip with yokes, a conventional joystick may seem a little retro, especially for a new generation four-seat traveling machine. Diamond felt a conventional stick was the best method of translating the airplane's smooth, quick control response from pilot input to airplane reaction. The Star uses push-pull control rods (ala Mooney) rather than standard cables, and that contributes a very positive, linear feel to maneuvering.
Overall, the cabin is surprisingly comfortable, partially because it's the widest part of the airplane. Diamond reshaped the forward-hinged canopy a few years ago to extend the sides vertically and widen the folding hatch wider at the top, resulting in more headroom. Dimensions are 45 inches across at the elbows by 44 inches tall.
The Star XLS employs the full Garmin G1000 avionics suite, now complete with the Garmin 700 autopilot and Synthetic Vision. That's perhaps only appropriate, as a Diamond Star was the launch vehicle for the G1000 back in 2004 at Garmin's Olathe, Kan., head-quarters, and the recent addition of Synthetic Vision in 2008 at Sun 'n Fun also featured a Star demonstrator.
There's no connection between nosewheel and rudder pedals, so ground maneuvering is strictly a function of differential braking. The good news is that you can reverse direction in little more than the airplane's wingspan. The other news is that virtually all ground handling demands use of brakes, so good braking action and condition are mandatory.
Power-up for takeoff isn't a major event, but the airplane's low stall speed brings it off the runway in a little over 1,000 feet. Once in the air, the XLS flies like it should have Breitling instruments and Northrup controls. Though the airplane I flew was built in Canada, it had a distinctly European feel.
Climb is brisk, about 1,100 fpm if you're doing everything right. On the way uphill, you can't help noting the excellent visibility. Pilot and copilot sit in front of the wing, so there's even some limited seeing straight down. There's Plexiglas all over the place, allowing the pilot the equivalent of a military fighter's bubble canopy.
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