The DA62 facts and figures are causing aviation writers to wax lyrical. But what’s it actually like to fly the new Diamond Aircraft Industries’ DA62 twin?
Could a high performance single engine pilot convert to and fly this Austrian born twin safely? What about the current “drivers” of the old legacy twins? How will they find it? Will the accountants and bank managers support the €929k base cost, plus options, capital expenditure?
If a one-hour flight in the left seat, from Bankstown (YSBK) in VH-DNU, number 27 off the line, with master instructor Fernando Villalon, courtesy of Joe Roberson and the team at Hawker Pacific, is anything to go by, the Diamond DA62 is fantastic and easy to fly; there is likely no easier or safer twin for a single engine pilot to convert onto; the pilots of the older twins will keep thinking they have forgotten something – the DA62 seems to do almost everything automatically; and finally, the accountants are going love this twin. It is going to put them in spreadsheet based, return on investment, in love with the marketing department, heaven. Here’s why:
This is an aircraft that looks sensational in the (composite) flesh. You immediately know it is part of the new generation of “electronically endowed” aircraft. It is as different from the tired old legacy twins as Gen Z are from the “deferment”, World War II generation. Maybe it’s the twin other manufacturers could or should have built. It is likely to pinch some sales from all the high end single engine manufacturers, and maybe even some jet or turbine contemplators.
In many ways the DA62 is both a small, big-aeroplane and a big, small-aeroplane. It has the looks and capabilities of both. And that is a most difficult feat to achieve. One immediately notices the smooth pointed lines of the composite construction, the three gullwing doors, giving easy access for all passengers, the easy to regress wings, the large windows – front and back, the highish T-tail, and the relatively large engine covers which hide extremely efficient jet fuel burning diesel engines. For all pilots, big or small, it is easy to enter this aircraft and it is much wider in all rows of seats than one can imagine from pictures, or even from standing on the ramp.
Luxury Car-Like Interior
Once inside certain things instantly impress. First, the electric pedal adjustment means that they are always in exactly the right place. Secondly, perfectly placed immediately, in front of the pilot’s eyes, is the PFD. It’s easy to see and does not in any way obstruct the great and commanding view over the windshield. Thirdly, the view in 360° is great. The engines are so close to the fuselage and of a design that they do not obstruct the view either. And in flight they look most reassuring as you peer out the windows. Fourthly, the “joy” sticks that slots between the legs of the pilot and right seat pilot or passenger. Funny thing though, that’s the last time you remember seeing the control device. In fact, the autopilot is so good, you seem to hardly ever need to touch it. Fifthly, you stare out at the wing tips across the smooth, FIKI enhanced wing (awaiting certification), past the vortex generating ribs, to the upturned winglets, and not so quietly say to yourself “As a DA62 pilot, I’m cool, very, very cool.”
Is this an aircraft that someone could easily convert to from a high performance single? The answer is a definite yes. It is quiet, smooth and simple to fly in all configurations with very similar speeds to those high performance singles. Engine failures or shut downs are (compared with conventional legacy twins), due mostly to technology, like auto feathering propellers, and the significant performance available on one engine, relative non-events. It just keeps flying, giving plenty of time for troubleshooting and deciding what to do. This will surely save a lot of lives and bring the fatality rates way, way down for (these) twins.
Starting an engine is literally as easy as pushing a button. Run up and checking the engine is the same – the computer does it all. There is only one power lever (throttle) per engine – no need to worry about pitch or mixture control. And the arm rest in the middle is perfectly placed. Rather than the throttle quadrant, your eyes flick back and forth to the percent of power in the engine section on the MFD – like on the newer high performance singles. If you are not used to this the percent numbers could ideally be a bit larger and displayed in front on the PFD, but this is a very minor grip and others who are used to it say it is not an issue when your eyes are trained where to look, and for what.
The safety issue for converters would come if they have only ever flown a DA62 twin and were converting “down” to a legacy twin. This would wisely require retraining from an experienced instructor and learning of a lot of traditional twin wisdom to remain safe.
This is an aircraft that can easily cruise at three nautical miles per minute – down low, or 10% faster up high, and then slow down to near Foxbat speed in the circuit, using low power settings and flaps. Circuit visibility, speeds and control are excellent – again similar to a high performance single. Even better, the trailing link undercarriage, something normally reserved for mega million dollar jets, does a fantastic job of impressing the passengers.
Test flying DNU out of Bankstown, and with 21 gallons of fuel already used, the MFD showed we could have turned east and made it to New Zealand before running out of fuel. The cool part was that as the throttles were moved forward or aft the system automatically adjusted the range and displayed it as easy to assess range rings (with and without reserves) on the MFD moving map.
The DA62, despite its size and maximum take-off weight of 5,071 lbs (2,300 kg) is not an aircraft that requires much runway. Its take off run is just 480m and landing run 441m. Over 50’ distances are 883m and 779 m respectively.
Together (combined) the Austro, turbocharged, common-rail, injected, 2.0 litre, engines, of 180hp, sip just 44.7 litres or 11.8 US gallons per hour, at 60% power at 12,000’. Service ceiling is 20,000’ or 13,000’ on one engine, nearly double the height of Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. The DA62 range is 1,283nm That will win over a lot of charter operators.
The seats are all large and comfortable, and that new car (or aeroplane) smell of high quality leather delightfully lingers about you long after returning to the hanger or indeed home. On our flight we had a 6’4” passenger in the second row and he had plenty of room. It’s the same in the front. Business passengers wanting to use iPads, laptops or read the newspapers will like this genuine roominess. There is a small amount of storage room behind the rear seats and also space upfront in the nose – on both sides – but with more room on the left side, for a couple of half sets of golf clubs and bags. It is likely that the third row of seats will often be unoccupied and used for storage.
All the air vents are in just the right place and the optional air-conditioning will be a welcome addition for those flying in hotter climates. Yes, it cools down up high but business and charter passengers, not to mention the family, will likely demand the cooler air on the ground in hotter weather too. The yaw damper reduces pilot workload noticeably and increases passenger comfort.
Who Wants One?
So who is this aircraft suited for? The short answer is a very wide variety of owners and users, some perhaps not immediately apparent. It’s the perfect aircraft, and really not that much more expensive than a fully optioned high-performance turbo single, for Australians or Kiwis who must travel long distances, on a regular basis for private or tax deductible purposes. It will become particularly popular with charter companies. In that respect Hawker Pacific estimate a five-year fuel saving compared with a conventional twin of about $400,000. That is sure to send a lot of Aztecs, Duchesses and other older conventional twins to the wreckers’ yards.
The economics will grab the accountants’ attention before even factoring in the fully costed decreased maintenance costs – less goes wrong, less often, costs less to fix, and less time on line is lost, both planned and unplanned. TBO’s on the engines will likely increase substantially as more units are in service – as happened with the DA40NG and DA42-6.
The greatly increased comfort and room mean this will be an aircraft that is loved by pilots, operators, accountants and passengers alike. The second engine is a great counter to the “no parachute” question, as is the aircraft’s excellent single engine performance. Both of these factors should not be underestimated in sales value.
Another target market for the DA62 could be the high performance single engine pilot-owners looking at a three to five year wait for a single engine light jet. This might be the ideal interim step up, training and expereince. And who knows, might the Diamond Jet be next off the drawing board?
For the pilot this is a beautiful and easy aircraft to fly, with the added advantage of modern built in electronic protection that prevent accidents, for example, gentle push back on the stick when you bank over 45 degrees, and a gentle mushing descent rather than violent stalls.
It won’t be long until word about the DA62 spreads and they quickly replace ageing aircraft throughout Australia and New Zealand. If you get a chance, go along and see the DA62 as it makes its nationwide tour with Joe Roberson from Hawker Pacific. Don’t be shy, no matter what your flying experience.
About the Author
Paul Southwick is a freelance aviation journalist, writer and pilot. You can review his profile and portfolio at www.psfj.co