A Diamond in more than a Thousand Words!
It’s amazing to think that a few years ago a Diamond test pilot flew the DA42 non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from St John’s, New Foundland to Porto, Portugal. Operating at 42% power, the 1,900 nautical mile journey was completed in 12 hours, burning fuel at a rate of just 2.8 gallons an hour per engine. Other DA42 pilots have since then completed the trans Atlantic journey, confirming the light twin’s excellent range and reliability in what are often abysmal and challenging weather conditions.
Diamond introduced the DA42 in 2005 – an all carbon, composite aircraft boasting a sophisticated Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. Originally powered by two Thielert Centurion 1.7 diesel engines, TAE Centurion, Thielert’s aircraft engine subsidiary, elected to licence the powerplant for jet fuel use only.
When Thielert ended its production of the 1.7 litre Centurions in favour of a new 2.0 litre model, Diamond began installing the new engine in early 2007; de-rating the newbie to ensure it produced the same horsepower and torque as its predecessor.
In late 2007, Diamond announced it would build and install its own aerodiesels, through a subsidiary, Austro Engine GmbH. Such a move would eventually prove to be a prudent one as Thielert filed for insolvency in April 2008. Thielert’s woes forced Diamond to suspend production of the DA42 three months later, at a time when the spunky twin reportedly commanded 80 per cent of the piston twin market. In this same year, Diamond Aircraft re-certified the aircraft with Lycoming IO-360 engines.
In March 2009 Diamond delivered the welcome news that it had achieved EASA certification for the Austro Engine AE 300-powered DA42, returning the popular light twin to production as the DA42 New Generation (NG). The new powerplant produced 20 per cent more grunt, while giving better fuel economy than the Thielert engines, resulting in a higher gross weight and increased performance.
INSIDE THE DA42
The DA42′s all-carbon fibre airframe is basically the same as that used in the single-engine DA40, but with a nose baggage compartment and beefed-up centre spar sections to support the weight of two engines. There’s also more legroom for those in front; while the instrument panel is located further away from the pilot — a change made possible by the narrow depth of the G1000 avionics suite.
According to Hawker Pacific Chief Pilot Richard Tomlin, the DA42 model is ideal as a multi-engine trainer and sophisticated touring aircraft.
“The DA42 is ideal for flight training organisations looking for an affordable, conventionally powered light twin that offers great dispatch reliability, easy maintenance and low operating costs,” Tomlin says. “Through its aerodynamic airframe and Powerflow exhaust, the DA42 offers excellent fuel efficiency.”
The G1000 cockpit provides students with a modern training system that allows a smooth transition into more advanced aircraft. And because the cockit design is virtually identical to the DA40 (except for the additional engine controls), students upgrading to the twin can do so with ease. Diamond also offers a TKS Ice Protection system, enabling the aircraft to cope with adverse icing conditions in sub-zero temperatures.
“Diamond’s obsession with safety is embodied in the design of the DA42,” Tomlin says. “It offers the ultimate in redundancy – damage-tolerant, fail-safe carbon airframe; completely redundant electrical system and power sources; redundant flight instrumentation; and of course – twin engines. The high aspect high lift wing on the Diamond also adds to safety margins with a superior climb perfomance of 1,119 feet per minute (MTOW sea level). It offers superior performance, easy maintenance and low operating costs. Pilots can be rest assured that they are flying with leading edge technology and a robust airframe that holds an impeccable safety record.”
The DA42 can accommodate four people and owners have the option of upgrading to the aircraft’s ‘Platinum’ interior, which includes premium leather seating, adjustable seatbacks and lumbar support, exquisite aluminium, wood and carbon fibre trim details and electrically adjustable rudder pedals.
The aircraft also has an interior baggage compartment behind the rear seats capable of holding 45kg; while the nose locker can accommodate 30 kilos. Imagine nose space large enough to hold a full set of golf clubs.
Yet another benefit of the DA42 is the huge forward hinging canopy, which allows easy entry and egress into the cockpit, and also another side hinged door for rear seat and baggage access. The seats are located in a fixed position directly under the safety rollcage and for this reason the rudder pedals are adjustable for easy operation.
FLYING THE DA42
Pilots familiar with the DA42 often say that when they’re strapped into the cockpit they feel like they’re actually “wearing” the aeroplane. The G1000 glass cockpit dominates the panel and it’s not surprising to learn that students and private pilots alike find the swish avionics suite both pilot-friendly and remarkably simple to use.
IN 2009, University of NSW Aviation put out a tender for single engine training aeroplanes. The successful tender was Hawker Pacific with the sleek Diamond DA40. As the twin-engine DA42 has exactly the same cockpit (except for the additional engine controls), the university decided the aircraft was a natural fit for multi-engine training. Additionally, it made the manufacture of the flight training device (simulator) that was part of the equipment acquisition plan, much simpler, offering a higher level of fidelity.
Prior to acquiring the DA42, UNSW used the Piper Seminole and Beechcraft Duchess for twin training. So how does the newbie compare to its predecessors?
“Performance is very similar to the Piper Seminole in all phases of flight apart from landing and stalling which is much nicer in the Diamond due in part to the elevator as opposed to a stabilator giving a consistently increasing strike force with speed reduction,” says UNSW Director of Flight Operations, Brian Horton. Cruise speed is about 155 knots.
“Handling is very similar (to the Seminole) except for simulated engine failure at speeds around Vyse (airspeed that gives the best single engine rate of climb), where the DA42 is more difficult to handle as it washes off speed much faster,” Horton adds. “On the other hand the aeroplane is new and therefore doesn’t have the ongoing maintenance issues that bedevil the operation of old aeroplanes. Fuel consumption is similar but maintenance costs are a fraction of those of the older aeroplanes.”
The DA42 is operated through conventional flight controls which are linked by rods to the control stick. The twin has a solid feel in light turbulence, with light and well-balanced controls; while the extended wingspan requires attention to rudder input. Excellent visibility in turns is further aided by the low nose and unobstructed 180 degree pilots’ view.
Straight-ahead stalls — clean and dirty — are almost non events. With power at idle and the control stick held fully aft, the aeroplane shakes and bucks slightly, but never exhibits a clean break or sharp roll-off on either wing.
Such benign stall characteristics provide pilots with enough confidence to fly the aeroplane through its full flight envelope; while all attitudes are comparable to other light aircraft but are enhanced by the visibility offered by the sheer size of the canopy.
Engine: 2 x Lycoming IO-360
Propeller: 2 x MT 3-Blade Hydraulic Constant Speed
Rate of Climb (Sea Level MTOW) 1400fpm
Maximum Operating Altitude 18,000 feet
Maxiumum Airspeed 194 KIAS
Cruise Speed @ MCP, 18,000ft 150KIAS
Fuel Consumption 50L/hr
Cruise Speed @MCP, 9000ft 164KIAS
Fuel Consumption 64lt/h
Cruise Speed @65%,Sea level 144KIAS
Fuel Consumption 62lt/h
Cruise Speed @75%,Sea level 153KIAS
Fuel Consumption 70lt/h
Takeoff Ground Roll/ 50ft Obstacle 485m/ 746m
Stall (flap zero/approach/landing) 64/ 61/ 57KIAS
Wing Span 13.42m
Wing Area 16.29 m2
Fuel Capacity Standard 299lt
Fuel Grades AvGas