Extensive travels and a
breakneck schedule have kept us from filing some more updates from
our recent excursion to London, Ontario, for the second annual
rendition of DiamondFest. But... with all of a few hours to catch
our breath before we get on to working up a FULL flight test of the
Eclipse 500, we'll attempt to get you up to speed.
Hold on... speedy ride ahead.
The big news and the focal point of a majority of the attention
at this year's delightful gathering was, of course, the astonishing
debut of the first new light twin in many years... and the first to
truly maximize technology in each of three pivotal aspects
-- Airframe, Engines, and
Avionics. It's been a difficult genesis for the
TwinStar... as the engines originally supplied for initial flight
testing, ultimately, were not the engines that could be dependably
certified. Cooling, exhaust and a number of other issues finally
wound up having a negative effect on Diamond's attempt to produce a
next-generation 200 knot twin.
But, Diamond persevered -- and while the DA42TDI Diesel powered
twin is (for the moment) going to debut at about 170 knots cruise,
that's one of the few low notes in what is otherwise an
exceptional little airplane... one we've flown now
a fair amount (including a good deal of single-engine work) and
expect to fly even more before the month is out... both in Diesel
as well as Lycoming formats.
But first, let's talk program updates...
Diamond's Peter Maurer, still as honest and self-effacing as
ever, did a very well-attended briefing on the state of the DA42
that pulled no punches, noting that there have "certainly been some
bumps in the program." A quick note here... It's a shame that this
starts off with what might be perceived as a negative. The folks at
Diamond are some of the most honest I know... but not every program
does what is expected from the beginning and the myth of the
aircraft that flies right off the drawing board is just that -- a
myth. Development is a tough gig... and getting a dependable,
certifiable bird often means making compromises.
So... Diamond is a victim of their own honesty in discussing
early test results that could not be put into production if they
wanted the engines to get certified and produce the degree of
reliability a program of this magnitude demands. Yeah, we all wish
the DA42 went 200 knots... but 170 knots at 10-12 gph (total fuel
burn... NOT per side) is NOTHING to sneeze at. The Lycoming
alternative will be a solid 180 knot airplane, while other future
developments may flirt quite shamelessly with 200 knots (if Diamond
can cajole Lycoming into producing a turbo-normalized variant of
the IO-360 or Thielert ponies up some more horsies down the line).
Mind you, they've learned a lot about diesel powerplants, having
delivered some 150 DA40TDIs overseas and worked through the
necessary teething pains that come with the introduction of radical
new technologies. The Thielert DA40s are starting to build some
solid buzz in Europe... especially for economy.
The state of the DA42 program is this -- deliveries have been
underway for weeks now -- on the other side of the pond (from the
USA). Thirty one planes have been delivered at the time of this
report and this comprises a program that flew an aircraft just 55
weeks after the commitment to build the aircraft was issued. That's
extraordinary. The first TC (a limited one, granted) came only 18
months after that. Current certifications have been issued by EASA
and include both VFR and IFR day/night operations. All aircraft are
being offered with Garmin's G1000 and no other panels are being
considered for inclusion with this airframe... they seem quite
happy with what they have, thank you. FAA certifications are
expected to be announced at Oshkosh. Eventually, the DA42 will be
certified for KNOWN icing... a major capability for a light twin.
An oxygen system will be certified for the aircraft as well, but
problems with original supplier, Mountain High, means that they are
being replaced as a vendor. Air conditioning is also expected to be
optionally available at some time in the future.
First North American deliveries, of Lycoming equipped aircraft,
(for now... Diamond insists on having a Thielert service network
built up before serious deliveries of the diesel birds -- VERY
SMART) are scheduled for the first quarter of 2006. The first
Lycoming powered DA42-360 may be seen in North America in just a
few weeks at Oshkosh. By the third quarter of 2006, Diamond should
be delivering 17 aircraft a month. The Diesel airplane will be
certified for Jet A in North America and Jet A as well was Diesel
fuel (which is refined to a different spec over there) in the
A lot of attention is now being paid to the upcoming Lycoming
version which is a bit faster than the Thielert, offers better
single-engine capability, but lots more fuel burn. It will also
sport a conventional throttle/prop/mixture control system instead
of the single-lever FADEC associated with the Thielert. This is
great for flight training, but not nearly as futuristic as the
diesel. So, the Lycoming variant is to be seen as an older and more
conventional technological variant for those who are not ready for
Diesel and FADEC. The airplane is said to be a screamer... with
excellent climb and cruise numbers (already quoted as being some
10-15 knots faster than the Thielert), and the possibility of a
future turbo is an enticing one.
Next... FLYING the TwinStar