Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Single-Engine Jet From Diamond

The Diamond D-Jet is being built and assembled in the same London, Ontario, facility as other Diamond aircraft such as the DA40.
After hitting max cruise, I slowed the D-Jet to evaluate its handling qualities through a series of slow-speed to high-speed accelerations with the aircraft configured in various flap and gear configurations; no adverse or pilot-unfriendly conditions were evident. I was particularly interested in the D-Jet’s slow-speed handling, and wanted to gauge how it would perform in the terminal area in the hands of a newly transitioning jet pilot. No surprises were encountered.

I also was curious to see how the D-Jet would fare during a 2-G steep turn at 60 degrees of bank. It may have been our speed, weight and atmospheric conditions—in any case, the D-Jet is the first jet I’ve flown that’ll do a perfect steep turn with almost zero degrees pitch-up!

Diamond’s legacy as a company that got its start producing motorgliders is clear and evident in the D-Jet. Coming out of 20,000 feet, Elwess demonstrated the jet’s impressive glide performance. With power pulled to idle, the D-Jet’s slick airframe and high-aspect-ratio wings kept us aloft for what would’ve been over 25 minutes, or an average descent rate of about 900 fpm. That’s plenty of time to get an engine restarted in the unlikely event of an in-flight shutdown, or enough time to find an alternate landing spot if relight isn’t an option.

The sleek airframe is complemented by a luxurious interior. Two exterior baggage areas offer ample storage, and the fold-down rear seats accommodate big items in the pressurized cabin.
On our first landing, we planned to do a touch-and-go. Forward visibility during landing is excellent. With the flaps extended to the landing position, the deck angle changes by approximately seven degrees nose-down, as compared to the flaps-up position during straight-and-level flight. On our approach at an 85 KIAS Vref with power stabilized and on a three-degree glideslope, the sight picture of the beginning of the runway is directly in the center of the windscreen. This is a subtle, yet very important design feature of the D-Jet that offers its pilots a visually comfortable approach to landing.

Landing the D-Jet is a nonevent—cross the runway threshold at 50 feet, slowly bring thrust to idle, and wait for the plane to come home for a well-behaved landing. Currently, the test aircraft aren’t equipped with the production trailing-link landing gear, which promises to provide pilots with even smoother landings.

As soon as the nosewheel touched down, Elwess retracted my flaps from landing to takeoff, and I applied full power, immediately accelerating back to our rotation speed and up for another circuit around the pattern. More of the same: stabilized on speed, in configuration for landing, thrust to idle at the approach end and smooth touchdown. As we pulled off the runway, I was convinced that the D-Jet was a solid machine.

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