Plane & Pilot
Saturday, July 1, 2006

Rediscovering The Diamond DA40


In its gentle stall, the descent rate is less than in a Cirrus SR22 with its parachute deployed


diamondSome people feel that the Japanese and Germans produce better cars, TVs, computers and cameras than the Americans, but there’s never been any question about the world domination of American airplanes. General aviation aircraft from the United States continue to lead in sales and performance at home and overseas.
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The 2006 model Star I flew with Robert Stewart of U.S. Aero in Long Beach, Calif., weighed around 1,710 pounds against a gross weight of 2,535 pounds. That left 825 useful pounds, and full fuel (41 gallons) only subtracted 246 pounds. Even in a heavily equipped Star, you should be able to fill the tanks, load up to 600 pounds and fly away.

The later-model Star provides more options for storing things inside the cabin. What used to be an open ski tube in the baggage compartment has been improved with an internal door and, with the aft seats folded flat, can fit such long items as golf clubs or snowboards.

Though you might assume the Star hasn’t changed much since its inception in 2000, there have been several subtle improvements. The gear has been redesigned around smaller tires and slicker fairings, and the nosegear strut has been revised. The horizontal stabilizer has been widened by four inches for more pitch authority at low speed, and the interior has been spruced up to look more professional than utilitarian.

Diamond wisely elected to stick with a nonsteerable nosewheel on the Star. Without the limitations of a rudder/nosewheel interconnect, directional control doesn’t require major brake stabs, and the lack of stop limits on the nosegear means the airplane can reverse direction in practically its own wingspan. Locked-wheel turns are never a good idea (to avoid flat-spotting tires), but a nonsteerable nosewheel provides vastly superior maneuverability in tight places.

Climb is better than you might expect with only 180 hp motivating one-and-a-quarter tons of airplane. The Star will easily top 1,000 fpm on a standard day from sea level. Perhaps more importantly, vertical speed holds up well at moderate altitude. Expect at least 500 fpm out of 8,000 feet. Service ceiling is listed as 14,000 feet, in case you’re inclined to challenge the tall rocks.

The stick control for roll and pitch provides good response, partially a function of pushrod interconnects rather than cables. Only the rudder pedals are connected via conventional cables.

The Star’s slick design and composite construction also deliver when it’s time to level for cross-country travel. Max cruise speed is listed as 145 knots, and I’ve seen 142 knots under good conditions. It’s certainly conceivable that the airplane might turn in 145 knots with the CG at the aft limit, all vents closed, perfect rig, a properly broken-in engine, new prop, etc.




Labels: Piston Singles

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