First Impression: Diamond’s Incredible DA62 Diesel Twin

6:10 AM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airpanista Blog Editor
I have just finished a very thorough sit-down inside a flying example of aviation engineering brilliance with Trevor Mustard, Diamond’s Aircraft Sales Manager. “Wow” does not even begin to describe their gorgeous DA62 diesel twin now on display at one of the most unique “booths” at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. 
You know right away from a quarter-mile away from their display that this company is not like the rest, as they have one of their twins perched on a gigantic pole out front for all to see. When I told someone I was headed over to sit in the DA62, someone in the Media Center said “oh, you mean Airplane-on-a-Stick” when referring to Diamond’s display.

First, let me set the stage. The DA62 is my dream airplane. It used to be the Pilatus PC-12, but I know I will never be able to gain the bank for the Swiss single-engine turboprop from Stans. O.K., let’s get serious…I am not close to having the $1.4 million USD for the DA62 either, but that’s the fun of dream airplanes – we 600,000 aviators at this show gain immense joy out of throwing reality out the window as we imagine what it would be like to own and fly the very best new aircraft available today.
After spending 10 minutes surrounded by impeccable fit and finish in the DA62’s cabin, even without the avionics fired up or the two Austro AE 330 diesel engines running, I can tell the Diamond easily qualifies as one of the best flying machines any amount of money will buy today.
After a quick briefing on how to climb up on the DA62’s very long wing and use an assortment of hand-holds to step inside, I slip into the left seat, and it fits me like a fine sports car seat. These are “anti-submarine” seats that are fixed into position, sitting on crush blocks designed to absorb the impact of a crash so your body does not have to. And with a backwards rake, the seats transmit the energy straight down into the cabin floor, minimizing forward slippage in a crash, hence the “anti-submarine” feature.
Everything is where it needs to be, it is obvious Diamond’s engineers have put enormous thought into the flight deck’s ergonomics. There was one thing though that I would need to research in more detail before dropping the one-point-four million…my arms are too short to fly the plane, at least as the seats were configured when I initially sat down. With fixed position seats, the rudder pedals adjust up to the pilot’s feet, a great concept, but the Garmin G1000 NXi glass panel is also of course also fixed in position. With the seat back where it was when I sat down, I could not easily touch the panel. Trevor adjusted the seat back with a quick one-button push, and the problem was easily resolved. But I am a very picky person when it comes to car or airplane seats, so the position when I was able to touch the panel did not feel right. Since the plane was surrounded with people wanting a taste of all this DA62 goodness, I did not want to take up my precious few minutes in this spectacular airplane monkeying around with the seat, but am sure that with a little adjustments, it would fit me perfectly.
Trevor first showed me a very “Diamond” feature, a hidden FMS keypad that folds into the center arm rest. In a closed position, the rest hits your arm just where it needs to be, providing perfect support to operate the airplane’s two throttles. But whip the arm rest open, and at your fingertips – literally – is the controller for the flight management system, where you can tune radios, enter flight plans and all other inputs needed to program the FMS. This is brilliant stuff.

I am sold on the interior, sign me up. But I of course did not get to fly the DA62, so I have to imagine that experience would be like. Before we talk speeds and fuel burn, let’s take a look under the hood:

Hanging off each wing in a nacelle that looks as much like a sculpted piece of art than a piece of airframe is an Austro AE 330 turbocharged 2.0L common rail diesel engine that produces 180 HP per side. Trevor assures me the engines start “exactly like any quality diesel automotive engine,” which means you flip up each engine’s master switch, push a button and the engines fire in “a little over a second.” The engine’s digital control system then takes over and puts each powerplant through an extensive pre-flight check and run-up, all without pilot input. There are no mixture levels to adjust, you just push two throttle levers forward and the houses get smaller…fast. The control of these engines are as simple as flying a jet, Trevor says, truly single-lever goodness.

O.K., so the engines are spooled up, and the houses are getting really small. Let’s talk about that performance:

High speed cruise will get you 192 KTAS at 87% power, burning 17.1 GPH. That's not per side, that’s total. At 60% power, the DA62 is loafing along at 159 KTAS, sipping just 11.8 GPH. Do that math and that is 5.9 GPH going through each engine. That is just insane. In economy cruise you are doing 182 miles per hour with up to seven souls on board, burning slightly more per side than a Rotax 912IS, and even less than the 12GPH I burned in my Piper Cherokee 235 with a Lycoming 0-540. The sea level climb rate at 100% power is 1,320 FPM and that only drops to 1,200 FPM at 6,000’ density altitude and 92% power.

As this is a light twin, I had to ask about single-engine performance. Back when I used to fly my Cherokee over Oregon’s Cascade range, I remember looking down a few times and seeing zero sufficient emergency landing spots if that 0-540 bit the big one. In the Diamond, flying on a dark night over that same stretch of wilderness, loss of one engine is a non-event, Trevor assures me. You just confirm which engine has quit with rudder, hold in some of that rudder to keep things square, twist the rudder trim knob to center everything out, and from there you can fly “hands off.” By this time, the EDC system has already shut down the glitched engine and feathered the prop, again, without input from the pilot. And unlike the old days when loss of an engine in a light twin meant immediately finding an emergency landing spot, in the DA62, it will still climb at 450 FPM, on one engine. “You can be 300 miles out over the ocean,” Trevor said, “and if an engine quits, no big deal, you just keep flying it. That’s a very good safety feature.”
I come away from my First Impression visit inside the DA62 extremely impressed, this is one very well-engineered airplane. If it flies as good as it looks, I suspect it would be love at first flight even before the gear doors have closed after takeoff. Will I own a DA62 some day?
Never say never.

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