Friday, July 08, 2005

I thought I would give a little more detail to that lone photo I posted yesterday. (Warning: the large versions of these photos are really big) The DA40 Diamond Star is a great plane to fly. It isn't among the fastest birds out there at only 145 knots, but that is generally enough for most travel needs. The long wings give it a very smooth feel, since they keep the plane from rolling too quickly. Unlike most 4-seat single-engine planes, it is actually easy to climb into and out of the back seat.

The first time I flew it, I fell in love with how easy it was to handle. There really wasn't anything about it that was confusing or difficult. Climb and cruise are both very simple, and the landing is easy. The only thing that might prove difficult for someone is that it glides better than most comparable planes. At 80 knots, you are likely to overshoot your spot, and float on down the runway. At 65 or 70 knots though, you can control that spot much better. After playing around with it a little bit though, I became consistent at getting within 50 feet of my spot.

The dealer in Leesburg, VA already had possession of the plane, and had put a few hours on it, including my initial flight, when we purchased it. From there, we flew up to London, Ontario where I attended a 3-day course on learning the Garmin G1000 cockpit. After two solid days of groundschool, I had most of it figured out. The class was supposed to include several flights up there, conducted under instrument flight rules, so I could put to practice what I learned, and become proficient before heading home- a relative necessity, because the dealer was bringing another plane back, so it would be only the aircraft owner and myself flying back.

Of course, the weather decided to throw us a curveball. Mid-November in Ontario is generally expected to be cold, and I had packed a winter coat. I generally wore just jeans and a t-shirt though, with the unusual warm weather. I never saw it dip below about 50. But we kept ending up with fog, or some other phenomenon that prevented us from flying. So I left London with only a groundschool, and no actual training in the plane. Back in Buffalo, NY, we were stuck with bad weather, and had to wait it out for two nights. Not a big problem, since that gave us the chance to find a casino. I spent a couple hours on the blackjack table, and came away $350 richer.

The problem now was, I was not instrument-current. I was confident in my proficiency, but I needed three approaches to make myself legal. So we had to wait out the weather long enough to get my practice approaches done. After that, we headed off into a 500-foot overcast sky. On the return home, we dealt with heavy instrument conditions and a little bit of in-flight icing. But all went well. Despite barely being current, and flying through potentially hazardous icing, I arrived home to a stunning realization: I was not stressed out. IFR should not be that easy. That realization keeps coming back to me every time I fly that plane.

Being at the site where they build these, we had talked them into giving us a factory tour. I gained a little extra insight into the building process. Composite structures were completely new to me, but I am genuinely impressed. The wing spars are tested out to the equivalent of 13-14 G's, at which point they suffer a compression fracture, but remain intact and can still carry a load. At 13 G's I will be unconscious anyway. Their manufacturing process was very streamlined and efficient, which tends to bode well for a company.

The guy who gave us the tour was curious about our plane. All the panels they were building for the DA40's were grey, with the G1000 in black. Our panel was solid black all across (see the photo I posted yesterday). So he did some checking, and he said that he foud out ours was actually the very first one off the production line. He claimed that ours was the only one with an all-black panel. He also said that Diamond was the first to certify the G1000 for the U.S. market, making our plane the very first G1000 in the country. I don't know any way to confirm his findings, but if true, that is really neat, having the very first one.

The last photo here, shows a different trip I flew, with a good view of the multi-function display doing its thing. I was flying with Rich out to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As the image shows, we were just steering with the autopilot, cruising along just off the shoreline, and up to Kitty Hawk. The flight was simple, even without the glass panel and autopilot, but it reiterated to me how relaxing it is simply to steer by dialing a knob, giving us much more time to scan for traffic and generally just enjoy the view.


At 1:48 PM, Blogger adr said...

Like the pictures. And it sounds like you're rather proficient at blackjack. :)

At 3:26 PM, Blogger also-known-as said...

Thanks, about the pictures. Only played blackjack a couple times really. I'm only good at the math behind it. More of an amusement thing- just to see if I could, than any thoughts of going professional.


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