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Feature Article 2

FEATURE ARTICLE

Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year mtrescott@comcast.net

Three Fun & Sporty DA40s for Rent

There are now three DiamondStar DA40 aircraft online at WVFC for rent! With summer here, it’s now the perfect time to check out in and fly these fun, sporty aircraft. Each of the three planes is slightly different, but all have the same excellent flying characteristics that make the DA40 so popular. Remarkably, one rents for less than a Cessna 172/G1000, but flies faster; the other two are priced within a few dollars of a 172/G1000.

The DA40’s sleek, composite structure is reminiscent of the Cirrus, and its center-mounted control stick makes it fun to fly. In addition, the G1000 glass cockpit is cutting edge technology that has the potential for increased safety if used properly. If you’re unfamiliar with the Diamond line you’re not alone, since they are not as readily available for rent as the ubiquitous Cessna 172. However, the DA40 is a proven aircraft that’s been available for over fifteen years, and it has a fatal accident rate that’s significantly lower than the overall General Aviation accident rate!

This state of the art, four place aircraft is IFR certified and is all electric. That means there’s no vacuum pump to fail. Should the electrical system fail, there’s a conventional attitude indicator (AI) at top center of the panel, along with a backup airspeed indicator and altimeter. A separate battery powers the AI for about 45 minutes if the alternator fails and the main battery discharges.

Visibility in the DA40 is exceptional. The glass canopy wraps around you for a full 180°, making it easy to spot traffic or just enjoy the view. You may want to bring along a baseball hat though, particularly early or late in the day when the sun is low, to reduce the brightness.

In the air, the most unusual thing you’ll notice is its docile stall characteristics. Hold the stick back continuously deep into the stall and you’ll just descend 800-1000 feet per minute with light buffeting. When landing, touch down in a nose high attitude, but don’t exceed 10 degrees of pitch, since its long tail offers some possibility of a tail strike if it’s pitched too high at touchdown.

All three of the club’s DA40s feature the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. One of the key advantages of the G1000 is that you can aviate, navigate and communicate all from one display. While there are some functions that can only be accessed from the multifunction display (MFD) in front of the co-pilot, the pilot can see all primary instruments, view an inset map, view and update a flight plan and tune and monitor radios all from the primary flight display or PFD on the left side of the cockpit. All three of the club’s DA40s include traffic systems, so you’ll have the 8 aircraft closest to you displayed on the MFD and the inset map of the PFD.

With all of the automation, it’s easy to have your eyes glued inside the cockpit when they should be outside. So checkouts include a focus on using the autopilot and other automation to simplify pilot workload and give you more time for sitting back and watching the world slide by. Naturally, emergency procedures are also emphasized, since you need to know what to do if one of the systems decides to hiccup.

The speeds of the three aircraft on the line vary slightly. All are roughly comparable to the speed of a Cessna 182. Two use 180-hp Lycoming engines, and one uses a 168-hp, turbocharged diesel engine that uses Jet A fuel. If you fly that one, ALWAYS make sure you stay with the aircraft when it’s fueled to verify that it’s fueled with Jet A and not accidently misfueled with avgas, which would immediately destroy the engine.

The three aircraft on the line at West Valley are:

·       N566DS is a 2006 DA40 with a 180-hp engine, constant speed prop, a non-WAAS G1000, and a KAP140 autopilot. This aircraft currently rents for $165/hour with a checkout rate of $155/hour. That’s the same price N566DS rented for when it first came onto West Valley’s flight line in 2006!

·       N732DS, is a 2007 DA40XL with a 180-hp engine, Power Flow System tuned exhaust (which adds about 20-hp), a WAAS-capable G1000, and the Garmin GFC700 integrated autopilot. It rents for $179/hour

·       N125NG is a 2016 DA40NG with the 168-hp, turbocharged Austro diesel engine. This engine is buttery smooth and eliminates the cockpit vibration sometimes felt in the other DA40s at engine startup and/or shut down. Its engine controls are completely different from an avgas powered aircraft, so it requires a separate checkout from the other DA40s. In the air it flies the same, though if you need to add some power to arrest a high sink rate during landing, you’ll need to move the throttle MUCH more than you would in the other DA40s to cushion the landing and avoid dropping in for a hard landing. It has a WAAS-capable G1000, and the Garmin GFC700 integrated autopilot. It rents for $199/hour.

Here’s the review AOPA did in 2004 of the DA40, the same model as N566DS. https://www8.garmin.com/aviation/articles/AOPA_01_0601.pdf

Have fun flying these amazing aircraft! And, if you have any interest in buying a Diamond, consider buying N566DS, which is currently for sale. Of if you’re interested in buying a new Diamond DA40 or DA42 from the local Diamond dealer, walk into the new offices of Austro Aircraft, which are located just to the left of the main entrance to West Valley’s Palo Alto location.

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