Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Fourth Time’s A Charm
In its fourth iteration, Diamond’s DA42-VI is a far better twin
East Coast Diamond dealer John Armstrong of Dominion Aircraft arranged for my evaluation flight in conjunction with the 2013 Oshkosh AirVenture. Dominion has responsibility for most Eastern states, and Armstrong is one of those positive salesmen who takes his job very seriously.
Armstrong labels his sales efforts the "Diamond Experience," and in this case, he put me together with Dave and Susan Passmore of Leesburg, Va. The Passmores purchased the first of the new series VI twins, and Armstrong arranged for them to accompany him to Austria where the new owners trained in their airplane, toured the Alps and flew their new twin home via the UK, Iceland, Greenland and Canada with a Diamond ferry pilot in the right seat.
Passmore is a semi-retired MIT graduate, so he's well-grounded in high-tech machinery. That puts him right at home in the DA42-VI. The Passmores' previous airplane was a DA-40XLS Star, so Diamond Aircraft were nothing new to him. Both he and his wife are pilots, and both will operate the DA42-VI.
Dave Passmore ordered practically every option on the list, including TKS, Synthetic Vision and air-conditioning.
On top of that, the airplane comes standard with the Garmin G1000/G700 PFD/MFD/autopilot, so the level of automation can be pretty much as you like it.
That's not to suggest the DA42-VI requires a doctorate in aeronautical engineering to fly. In fact, if anything, the airplane is almost silly simple to operate. Flying the new DA42-VI is more reminiscent of driving a pair of turbines than twin pistons. You set power by percentage rather than manifold pressure, using single-lever power controls, thanks to FADEC. Like turboprops and jets, the Austros are relatively impervious to shock heating or cooling, in this case a function of water-cooled engines, a semi-retro feature that works better than air cooling when there's no one trying to shoot holes in your radiator.
Conversely, the Diamond twin's sticks for roll and pitch control may seem a little unconventional. Personally, I love center-mounted sticks. The controls spring from the center of the pilot's and copilot's seat cushions, and despite what you might think, that's not uncomfortable at all.
As mentioned above, the engines are fitted with FADEC, so hot and cold starts are no longer even a consideration. Combine that with an ECU (Electronic Control Unit), and the most complex part of starting the Austros is waiting for the glow-plug to extinguish.
With all the automation under the cowlings, there's also little to be done prior to takeoff. Assure that both engines are running and the cabin doors are closed, and you're pretty much ready to fly.
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