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Flying the New Tundra Star

GlassPilotGeneral, Pilot Reports

During our trip to the Diamond Austrian Factory to pick up the first DA42-VI bound for the US, we had the opportunity to see up close all the projects and new products coming from the Diamond development team. The Diamond Tundra Stars were rolling off the line in volume with most headed to Russia for a large order there.

Christian Dries the owner of Diamond provided me the opportunity to fly this new DA40 variant and since I had flown the DA40 NG in the last year I was keen to compare and see what the new bird was all about.

The plane was designed to be the ideal training and personal aircraft for countries and areas where they need to operate from grass and unimproved runways routinely. The combination of that focus with the miserly JET-A burning Austro engine is what has made this an instant hit with large orders from such countries as Russia.

The stance of the plane is what catches one’s attention immediately. The gear is significantly higher and the large tundra tires with their anodized wheels really pop and look sharp.  It could easily win a DA40 Pimp My Ride Competition.

Entry in from the rear of the wing as they moved the step behind the wing. I presume this is to make the entry easier as the trailing edge is definitely lower than the top of the leading edge.

The now famous Diamond test pilot Fritz (aka Cowboy) provided me my intro flight and of course had fun showing off the plane. The first thing he had to do was show off the easy start operations…turn the key and go simplicity. To make  the point he turned it off and on 4 times quickly on the ramp just to stress that its really that easy with the smooth running diesels. And smooth they are. The one thing that always catches one off guard when flying these is how smooth and quiet the engine runs. A real pleasure indeed to know that hot starts are a thing of the past and noise and vibration are in a realm little known to us in aviation.

The first take off was of course in the grass. I taxied the plane over some rough areas to see how she felt and was treated to a smooth ride with the tall “springy” gear. Clearly this bird was more than happy to be on the grass.

The initial acceleration was a tad slower than a gas DA40 but very quickly we were bumping down the tall grass field approaching lift off. I could feel that the plane had a bit more weight to it and it felt solid. The long wings on the DA40 always make quick work of becoming airborne. As Christian says, “If you want a good airplane you need a good wing.”

On climb out the plane accelerated and the turbo power provide for a significant climb angle. The views of the Austrian country side were as impressive as usual since the canopy configuration is the same as what we are used to in late model DA40s.

The flying qualities of the plane had the usual “Diamond Feel” of precision, balance and control…the usual hands of flying once trimmed. The combination of the smooth running diesel and slightly heavier weight made for a super smooth nice ride. She performed well in the turns no different than a “regular” DA40 owner would expect. With the big wheels hanging out though of course all our speeds I’m used to seeing were less. We did maneuvers in the 125-130 kt range.

Fritz and I did several touch and go operations on the grass. It was a blast of course. The performance was impressive and handling was of course a snap. I could imagine that 30 knot cross winds would be even more of a yawn with the grass and large tires to absorb any side loads the pilot might have in the touch down. The rotation of the aircraft did require more pilot input than a gas DA40 since there is more weight forward but that takes only a moment to get used to and once in the air its hard to tell the flying inputs as any different that what I’m used to.

The end result of course was… “I want one!”   The fun of off field flying with the smooth miserly operation of the diesel makes for a neat and unique combination. Though many folks still don’t know this the diesel DA40′s are available for order and delivery in the US.  I could see the Tundra version being a very popular aircraft at any training school while the standard diesel unit would be the ideal personal cruiser for the discerning modern “GlassPilot”.

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