Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

World's Best Trainer

Diamond Aircraft’s entry-level trainer hopes to lure new pilots to the company’s innovative line of aircraft

Standard climb at sea level/gross is listed as 1,000 fpm, and service ceiling is claimed to be above 13,000 feet. This suggests reasonable performance at low to medium altitudes where most flight training is conducted.

The little Diamond isn’t quite as quick as its PR might suggest, but by any measure, it’s a fast machine for a single with wheels hanging in the wind and only 125 hp to protect it. Plan on an easy 130-135 knots at 75% power and 8,500 feet MSL. Best of all, that’s on only 6.0 gph, generating a nautical mpg rating of about 22. In automotive terms, that’s 25 statute mpg, easily the equal of most SUVs.

Landings require a little attitude adjustment in the Diamond C1. Perhaps because of Diamond’s experience building powered gliders, the C1’s efficient, high-aspect-ratio wing enjoys a better L/D than most other general aviation airplanes, about 11 to one. In contrast, the Cessna 150/152, perhaps the standard of the world for flight training, has a glide ratio of seven to one. This means approaches in an Eclipse are slightly flatter than in a Cessna. It also means the Eclipse can glide farther in the event of engine trouble, fortunately not a common problem for the durable little Continentals.

Though I’ve never been much more than a licensed student myself, I’ve been reintroduced to the true student mentality in the last year. Peggy is probably typical in placing major concern on the smoothness of her landings.

The 152 is certainly an easy airplane to return to Earth, but I would bet the Diamond Eclipse would be even easier. The combination of the enhanced ground effect of a low wing, ultimate visibility of a bubble canopy and joystick control make the C1 a truly lovable teaching machine. With such a low, full-flap stall speed (42 knots), you could conceivably truck down final at 51 knots without violating the 1.2 Vso rule, and slower is nearly always better. Recommended approach is more like 55-60 knots, and the pay-off in the C1 is so predictable, students wind up loving the type almost as much as instructor Rob Johnson and I do.

As Pilot Peggy approaches her private pilot flight test in the Cessna 152, I can only wish she’d been able to fly an Eclipse for her course of study. Nothing wrong with the 152; it has certainly earned its stripes as one of the hardest-working airplanes in general aviation. To my way of thinking, the Eclipse would simply have made the process more fun.

Two Seats Or Four?

Like most of the modern generation of pilots, Orrin Shiveley of Glendale, Calif., earned his private license in one of the standard trainers of the last 20 years, a Skyhawk. Shiveley did his preliminary training in ultralights that didn’t require a license, but when he transitioned to training in certified aircraft, he discovered most of the teaching machines were four-seaters, and many were 20-40 years old. “That seemed a great waste of seats for a trainer,” Shiveley explains, “but I managed to earn my license, and then I was ready to buy an airplane of my own.”

Shiveley is an industrial designer with Disney, so he was inclined toward a modern design rather than the older 172. “Many of the airplanes I trained in were fairly old and very well used, and I wasn’t about to spend $50,000-$100,000 for a 30-year-old airplane.”

The designer’s decision to purchase a two-seater was partially a result of his enthusiasm for the Diamond DA20-A1. “I really liked the low-wing Katana because of the visibility, the modern design and the efficiency,” says Shiveley. “I’d flown behind Rotax engines in Europe and liked the type, and the early, two-seat Diamond seemed almost ideal for my applications.”

Shiveley purchased a 1996 Katana in 2004, and he’s been well pleased with his choice. “The Katana’s visibility is excellent, economy is better than anything else in the class, and the flying characteristics are superior to those of any other two-seater,” Shiveley comments. “In fact, if I ever do decide to step up from the Katana, it will probably be to the DA20-C1 Eclipse. With the larger Continental engine, the C1 offers more performance, similar economy and roughly the same handling. For me, right now, however, the Katana is just right.”

Labels: Piston Singles


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