There’s a new twin in town — and Diamond Aircraft’s DA62 represents a major step forward when compared to the two other airplanes in its class: The Beechcraft G58 Baron and the Piper Seneca V.
The differences are numerous, but the three most obvious include a sleek carbon fiber fuselage, seating for seven, and Austro turbo-diesel engines with full electronic controls.
But Diamond doesn’t want its new flagship to be limited by comparisons to other twins. With total fuel consumption and operating simplicity on par with many high performance singles, Diamond is also aiming to attract attention from single engine pilots needing more seats and useful load, plus the comfort that comes from having two engines when flying at night and over inhospitable terrain or open water.
Having owned a Seneca and a couple of Barons for use in our family business, I got the enviable assignment to fly Diamond’s distinctive new twin when it visited Florida this spring during SUN ‘n FUN.
However, since Diamond did not have a display at the Lakeland air show this year, you were disappointed if you looked for the DA62 there. Instead, Diamond focused on demonstrating the new twin and the rest of its product line to prospective customers with demo flights based out of Plant City Airport, a few miles west of LAL.
After spending almost an hour flying the DA62 with Sales Manager Brent Eddington in the right seat, I came away agreeing that there’s no substitute for experiencing how the plane performs.
I had an idea of what to expect from the DA62 since I had flown the smaller four-seat Diamond DA42 twin several years ago at Oshkosh, but this new model is not merely a DA42 on steroids.
Twin gull wing doors for the pilot and co-pilot are a significant improvement over the tip-forward canopy of other Diamond models, while the large top-hinged left side rear passenger door facilitates loading the second and third rows.
The second row is wide enough to accommodate three medium-size adult passengers and the optional third row seating for two is best suited for children. With seven seats occupied, baggage space is limited to the two nose compartments and I predict that many purchasers will choose to delete the optional $27,725 third row of seats in favor of more baggage capacity in the cabin.
Like an SUV, both rows of rear seats can be folded flat to accommodate cargo, but access for loading the cabin with bulky items is probably not quite as easy as with the big “barn doors” of both the Baron and Seneca. However, golfers will appreciate that the dual baggage compartments in Diamond’s gracefully pointed nose can accommodate clubs.
Having always preferred flying with a control stick instead of a yoke, I was delighted to see that Diamond has continued its use of sticks in the DA62 twin. Dual throttles are mounted in the center console and a computer automatically controls engine mixtures and synchs the composite MT constant speed props.
Once seated in the comfortable pilot’s position, I noticed that the plane’s interior is upscale and a full suite of Garmin G1000 avionics is standard.
The front seats offer excellent visibility and Eddington pointed out that their locations are fixed and both sets of rudder pedals are electrically adjustable to accommodate different size pilots. Unlike the track-mounted front seats in most aircraft, this feature allows the seat design to be optimized for crashworthiness and removes any concern about losing control if the pilot’s seat were to come loose and suddenly slide back at rotation.
Once the glow plugs did their job, starting the 180-hp Austro AE330 diesels was quick and easy. Based on a Mercedes car engine, the twin turbo-charged power plants started smoothly.
While the introductory TBO is currently only 1,000 hours, it is expected that this limitation will be progressively expanded well before anyone accumulates that much flight time. Based on successful fleet experience, the similar 170 hp AE300 Austro engines installed in the DA42 went from 1,000 hours to 1,800 hours in three years.
The run-up is completely computer controlled and the pilot just sits there and monitors the automated process. And, with dual channel full authority digital engine controls (FADEC), problems with cold and hot starts are a thing of the past.
Once warmed up and ready to go, the DA62 accelerated nicely down Plant City’s 3,950-foot runway with only two of us aboard. I can only imagine how the plane would handle a gross weight takeoff, but it has a generous payload of 1,004 pounds when topped off with 86 gallons of fuel.
More power would be nice, of course, such as the dual 300-hp Continentals of a new Baron G58, but Austro does not offer a larger engine and one of the DA62’s distinctives is efficiency.
Instead of the Baron’s 32 gph fuel flow at 75% cruise (202 knots), the DA62 burns a total of only 14.8 gph of Jet-A at 75% while cruising at 187 knots. At its max power top speed of 198 knots, the Diamond burns 18.6 gph and economy cruise at 60% yields 12 gph and a range of over 1,300 miles.
Upon reaching a safe altitude, several clearing turns gave me the feel of the plane, which was solid and fun to fly with the stick. While maneuvering, Eddington demonstrated the Electronic Stability Protection (ESP) feature of the Garmin GFC 700 autopilot, which, although disengaged, automatically “nudges” a hand-flying pilot to recognize and correct excessive pitch attitude, roll attitude and airspeed excursions.
Eddington then demonstrated the DA62’s engine-out performance, which was a non-event because the plane was easy to handle with the critical left engine shut down and the prop auto-feathered. Getting the engine back online was quick and easy, just like starting a car engine.
With demo flights booked every hour, it was soon time for us to return to the airport. Eddington suggested we do a touch-and-go first and then return for a full stop landing. With flaps deployed, 90 knots felt good on final and the trailing-link landing gear and a set of large tires suitable for rough strips helped make my first landing in the DA62 acceptable. Although not current in a twin, my second landing was even better and I felt that I could quickly get comfortable in the plane.
It would take a little longer to get comfortable with the price of the new DA62, which can exceed $1.3 million when equipped with all the desirable options, such as air conditioning, TKS anti-ice, weather radar and built-in oxygen. However, to put it in perspective, a new Beechcraft Baron G58 with all the goodies carries a price of around $1.4 million.
Piper recently reduced the price of a new Seneca V by $50,000, one of its typically-equipped twins goes out the door at $1.03 million.
After operating twins for many years, our company switched to heavy singles during the past decade due to the cost of feeding two engines. The diesel-powered Diamond solves that problem, however, since the DA62’s 14.8 gph total fuel burn in cruise is less than the 16.5 gph of our turbo-normalized A36 Bonanza. Also, Jet-A typically costs less than avgas.
The ongoing debate between the relative safety of a single versus a twin will probably never be settled and, although we’ve experienced excellent reliability from our Bonanzas and Mooneys, we must concede that a twin looks safer to non-pilot passengers and their families.
With safety in mind, it’s routine for us to spend another night on the road when faced with flying home in a single after dark, especially in hard IFR conditions, but a capable twin could give us the confidence to continue on and avoid the extra cost of rooms and meals.
If you’re fortunate enough to run a profitable business with income that needs to be sheltered, the significant tax savings currently available under IRS Section 179 are another incentive to buy a new Diamond. With bonus depreciation, it’s possible to write off 75% of the purchase price in the first year.
Diamond has three target markets for the DA62 — corporate use, charter/air taxi, and families who want a flying SUV — and the plane’s ability to burn Jet-A rather than avgas will be particularly attractive to prospective customers outside the United States, where avgas is often unavailable.
Personally speaking, the DA62 would work well for our company and having seven seats available would allow me to carry all six of my grandchildren.
Now, if we can just arrange an easy time payment plan…