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May
28

First DA42-VI Makes the Crossing Part I

GlassPilotNews, Pilot Reports

In December 2012 my pilot wife and I put down a deposit on a brand new DA42 “dash six” with our Diamond Distributor Dominion Aircraft Sales. At the current time Diamond currently produces DA42s only in its Wiener Neustadt, Austria factory about 30 miles south of Vienna.

For awhile Diamond was also producing DA42s in the London, Ontario, Canada factory back when they had a huge order backlog for hundreds of DA42s. Back then major components (painted fuselages, wings, etc.) were being sent in “kit” form from Austria, with final assembly being performed in Canada for North American customers.

With the switch from Thielert to Austro engines — Diamond stopped producing new DA42s in Canada except for a small number of avgas Lycoming-powered DA42-L360 aircraft. So to get a new DA42-VI, the aircraft is produced in Austria and ferried to North America.

We opted for the European Delivery Experience offered by our distributor as we thought it would be a chance of a lifetime. Our Diamond distributor John Armstrong and his wife Mary Margaret hosted us for a week in Vienna and coordinated our factory visits, tours, intro flights and excursions. It was an amazing week and an experience we will never forget. To make things even more interesting I requested to accompany the plane for the ferry flight over the Northern Route of the Atlantic and John was also able to coordinate this special request as well.

We arrived on a Monday and enjoyed an afternoon of sightseeing in Vienna. Day two was our first day at the factory and they wasted no time in wowing us. After the cerimonial handing over the the keys by Christian Dries himself we loaded up in our new plane with another DA42 in tow and headed to Salzburg.

They had arranged for us to visit the Red Bull Hangar 7 museum and see all the interesting aircraft on display. Then it was off to town to enjoy lunch overlooking the village of Salzburg from the perch on a cliff hanging over the town. The flight back to the factory including sights of the snow capped peaks of the Alps on one side and the lush green of the country side on the other.

The next day we enjoyed comprehensive tours of the Austro Engine plant and main composite factory and assembly floor. The thing that was most noticeable was how busy everyone was. We were told there was a significant backlog and everyone was working hard to ramp up production for all the orders. Diamond’s diesel strategy has been obvioualy doing extremely well in many parts of the world. While we were there they were working on building DA40 Tundra Star’s for the Russian market for a very large order.

Having the opportunity to see where and how the planes are made and meet the people that do the work was very special. We learned so much about this amazing aircraft. We gained appreciation of how carbon fiber is used throughout and how the engine is fully FADEC controlled and we saw the precision with which it’s all hand crafted.

The next day we were able to take the day off and enjoy the sites of Vienna and on Friday it was back to the factory to prepare for the ferry flight “across the pond”.  To ferry the aircraft, Diamond supplied their most experienced ferry (and flight test) pilot from Wiener Neustadt, Friedrich “Fritz” Lehrer, whom I learned was also nicknamed “Cowboy.”   As you can imagine, Fritz and I got to know each other well during 28 hours of flying together.

The Trip

To get from Wiener Neustat, Austria to London, Ontario, Canada required 6 flights over 3 full days of flying — a distance of slightly over 4000 nm including crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. Here were the airports visited:

LOAN — Wiener Nustadt, Austria (Diamond Factory)
EGPC — Wick, Scotland
BIRK — Reykjavik, Iceland
BGBW — Narsarsuaq, Greenland
CYYR — Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada
CYQB — Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
CYXU — London, Ontario, Canada (Diamond Factory)

Flight 1: Wiener Neustadt, Austria (LOAN) to Wick, Scotland (EGPC)

The first flight of the trip proved to be the longest, both in length (979 nm) and in flight time (6 hours and 23 minutes). While our original intent was to fly the entire leg, a backup plan in case the winds didn’t cooperate was to make a fuel stop somewhere near the north German coast before beginning the North Sea crossing. Fortunately the winds did cooperate, producing very light winds aloft, then a tailwind, and then a headwind.

Here’s Fritz pulling the plane out of one of Diamond’s hangars:
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To maximize range without going too slow we used only around 60% power, initially at 12,000 feet and then later we were able to get cleared up to 14,000 feet. I elected to use O2 at 14,000 feet or above throughout the trip, trying out our plane’s built-in oxygen system and Oxysaver cannulas (Diamond actually provides a set of these and a mask when you order the O2 option).

Here’s our takeoff with a nice view of the Diamond factory buildings on the left side of the runway — you can also hear the Wiener Neustadt unicom operator wishing me well on our journey:

BTW, the “shark gills” visible in the video on the left engine nacelle are new to DA42-VI models with factory air conditioning, since that’s where the 3rd alternator for the electrically-powered air con is located. The messy wiring on the right side of the instrument panel is for the HF radio temporarily installed under the panel (more about how this was rigged in later posts). The video also shows Fritz copying down the flight’s IFR clearance being radioed by ATC.

Here’s our flight path on the MFD with the first few programmed waypoints just past Vienna. For US readers, note the crazy airspace boundaries in Austria:
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When the clouds cleared, we were able to see Prague, Czech Republic, a place I’ve visited multiple times on business trips from the US (sorry about the iPhone propeller streaks):
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However for most of our trip I couldn’t see much of Europe through the overcast layer below us. In one way this was good, since I’ve never flown longer distances over water in a small piston aircraft before, so the beginning of our crossing of the North Sea was effectively invisible. Even better, since the engines couldn’t see the water either, they didn’t activate their over-water “auto-rough” feature. :-D

Here you can see that we were routed to the KARLI waypoint out over the North Sea about 100 miles off the coast of Norway before being allowed to turn towards Wick in Scotland. Note our range ring showing that we still had plenty of fuel to reach a landing at Wick:
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Where there were breaks in the clouds, I was surprised to see oil drilling platforms almost everywhere in the North Sea.

Finally (after 6 hours), here’s our landing at Wick (EGPC):

Despite the aircraft being on an IFR flight plan, approach control assigned a transponder code of 7000 and cut us loose while still in the clouds, We were then then instructed to “blind call” the Wick airport — what most pilots in the US would call CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency).

Here’s our aircraft on the ground at Wick — admittedly not the prettiest airport I’ve ever visited:
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