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Aircraft Review : Diamond Star DA40 by Alabeo

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Aircraft Review : Diamond Star DA40 by Alabeo

Single engine aircraft with four seats that has excellent performance is the most fought out category for the General Aviation market. To be successful you have to deliver an aircraft that is capable in delivering exceptional results and with low flying service costs. For many in this market it is known as a Sport's Cruiser.

Diamond Aircraft of Austria hit the mother lode with the introduction of the DA20 Katana two-seater sports that first flew in 1991. It was a no-brainer to enlarge the aircraft to four seats and add in more performance and with that you have the Star DA40 which is powered by initially as the DA-40-180 and powered by a fuel injected Textron Lycoming IO-360 M1A engine. The certification route was a bit messy in first there was the Rotax 914-powered prototype DA40-V1, registered OE-VPC, which first flew on the 5 November 1997 and that aircraft was followed by a second prototype DA40-V2 (registered OE-VPE) which was powered by a Continental IO-240. In 1998 a third prototype DA40-V3 flew powered by a Lycoming IO-360 engine (our version). Four more test aircraft were produced followed by the first production aircraft in 2000. JAR23 certification of the IO-360 production variant was obtained in October 2000. In 2002 the production of the Lycoming-engined variant was moved to Canada and the Austrian factory concentrated on diesel-engined variants.

But performance for an aircraft of this size is very good in with the: Cruise speed: 150 knots (173 mph, 279 km/h) - Range: 720 nm (828 mi, 1,341 km) - Service ceiling: 16,400 ft (5,000 m) - Rate of climb: 1,120 ft/min (5.69 m/s); and a Power/mass: 0.06802 hp/lb (110 W/kg).

But the DA40's most claim to fame is that the aircraft has accumulated a very low accident record, particularly with regard to stall and spin accidents. Its overall and fatal accident rates are one eighth that of the general aviation fleet and include no stall-related accidents. The level of safe operation is attributed to its high aspect ratio wing, low wing loading and benign flight characteristics. The DA40 has shown to have a fatal accident rate of only 0.35/100,000 hours, which the lowest in US general aviation and considerably better than the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 with a combined fatal accident rate of 1.6/100,000 hours, despite its built in full aircraft parachute system. By comparison, the Cessna 172 has a fatal accident rate of 0.45/100,000 hours.

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Alabeo Diamond Star DA40

In X-Plane their is no doubt there going to be comparisions to Aerobask's excellent DA42 Twin Star. But in reality it is an altogether different aircraft, because for one the DA42 has two engines but secondly it is also an all glass cockpit. So the DA40 from Alabeo is a more basic machine than menu driven DA42 and that if you like a more standard (if slightly older) approach to flight may find this aircraft more to their needs.

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The composite smooth style makes the aircraft look smaller than it actually is. The DA40 is a full four-seater aircraft, but a highly modern design. The standard of quality from the Carenado/Alabeo design houses are as expected excellent, we can always become a bit non-plussed about the quality of aircraft available today for X-Plane, quality is well up to the usual high standards from wheel fairings to the long sweeping wings, the top fuselage antenna to the intricate door latches, and everything comparable to real world DA40s. The reflections, shading and light sourcs on the exterior of the aircraft are excellent.

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Menus are standard Carenado/Alabeo. You have two tags lower left of your screen one ( O ) is "Options" and the other is ( C ) for Views.

( O ) Options menu consist of include the opening and closing of the doors in "Pilot Door", "Passenger Door" and are backed up by 'Shift + ' key options. You have the choice of being able to toggle the reflections of the instruments and windows as well and the "Static Elements" in wheel chocks and cones which are excellent. Extra features include the option to have open wheels or fairings, which are so good I left them on as the aircraft looks really naked without them. You can now also select your livery from the menu as well, which is a great speedy way of getting the right livery quickly.

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There are two versions of manipulators for scroll or ordinary mice action, when the scroll feature is on it will illuminate the item to be activated, I use a standard (apple) one click mouse so it doesn't work for me, so I turn "scroll off".

( C ) views are the second menu options.

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In Views you can select ten different types of views in the upper menu, which is very handy in moving inside or outside of the aircraft and looking at different aspects of the panel equipment. Other adjustments here include your "Point of View" and sound "Volume".

Internal

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Exceptional interiors are always welcome, and this leather tanned cockpit is very, very welcoming. Beautifully done, detailing is exquisite as early Alabeo cockpits where once darkest of murky dark, but now they are perfectly lit... nice.

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With no power the panel is a very basic flying machine with basic instruments, nothing a cadet could not handle. Turn on the battery and the panel has a more modernistic approach. Dials and screens are highly detailed and very readable with simply excellent realistic reflections. The centre long pedestal has the basic levers you need in up top: Cabin Heat, Defrost and two position brake. Lower central is the: Throttle, Propeller and Mixture (Rich/Lean) and a three way fuel selector. Rear is your (large) trim wheel, Hobbs counter and audio headset inputs, which are also very realistic.

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The panel is really that in being a surprise, just basic instruments and not two (or three) large menu driven screens across your view. The lovely rudder pedals are (moving) cable connected and they in some respects completes the cockpit's very gliderish look with those joysticks sticking out of the front of the seats and the hooded panel. The glareshield top surround drops down with the large front canopy (rear passenger door is only on the left) and this is so well done.

The pilot left gets all the instruments with the standard six instruments ( Airspeed Indicator, Attitude Indicator or Artificial Horizon, Altimeter, Turn Coordinator and Vertical Speed Indicator) are all very large and easily readable with VOR OBS and NDB direction dials. lower panel is a selection of rocker switches that cover the -  Pitot, Landing (landing lights), Taxi, Position, Nav Lights, Strobe,  And a key turn starter switch. ESS Bus, Avionic Master, Fuel pump and Main Power in Master and Instrument. Three position flaps (Up, speed 108 KAS and 61 KAS)  a very large compass is situated on top of the glareshield.

Equipment is provided by the central avionics stack is from top GMA 340 Audio radio, two Garmin GNS430 GPS (Comm1/VOR1- Comm2/VOR2) which are the X-Plane 10.30 default, There also an Bendix King KN-62A TSO VOR 2 Navigation Receiver and a Bendix King ADF KR 87 and at the bottom is an excellent Bendix King KX 165A autopliot. Right of the autopilot is a Garmin GTX 327 Transponder with Clock.

The highlight of the panel is the large Vision Microsystems VM 1000 Engine Instrument system which displays engine parameters in an analog sweep and digital readout for: Tachometer, Manifold Pressure, EGT/CHT, Fuel Flow and Pressure, Oil Temperature and Pressure, Voltage and Amperage. The lower buttons don't work. The display is highly effective and looks great on the panel, below in the same design is a digital Fuel level display. Far right on the panel is large clock.

A quirk is the knob on the ADF KR 87 does not work? You change the ADF frequency by the actual numbers (right) with arrows, it is slightly awkward but works, but maybe the knob manipulators encroach on each others territory, so it works but it is not real world realistic.

Flying the Diamond DA40

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Fuel in and pumps on and a turn of the key, a hit of the starter. The engine does not catch straight away, in the fact you tend to check if everything is on? yes the pumps are on, mixture is rich?  turn again...  hold it...  keep holding it.  

Ahh...  then the engine catches and fires.

The VM 1000 engine rev's are very easy on the eye (its pretty hard not to notice the bright display) and easy to keep the rev's in the right zone while taxiing.

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The undercarriage is very stork like you feel you are on three sticks and sitting high up. "will they break?" of course they won't but they do flex quite a lot.

As the revolutions rise on the VM 1000 you are going to bring in the power really slowly and gradually until you have enough straight line speed, and then there is case of keeping smooth and in a straight line. The aircraft is of course extremely light (all aircraft aim to be as possible) but we are really light here. 60knts and you can be airborne. At that 60knt point you are thinking you are certainly going faster, you're buzzing and vibrating to keep the aircraft central and straight. Then a slight pull of the joystick and you're now really airborne, and surprisingly climbing and still collecting speed. You have 210 hp (157 kW) at your disposal from an engine that is quite an old design from 1955.

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You can climb and turn with an amazing pitch of around 1000fpm, you use all that but it is at your whim, and you settle for around 650fpm at 90knts. That is mostly to refinement of those long thin wide wings and slippery body, there is no doubt how efficient this airframe really is through the air.

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Once in the air you are very conscious of one thing...  space. There is a real openness of no obstruction of view but a feeling of flying in a goldfish bowl. 

Then there is the noise?  The sounds are as to be expected very good, from startup to high throttle in flight. But it sounds like you are flying a very large lawnmower, noisy is not the word, deafening is definitely the word. And no doubt in the real DA40 I suspect that headphones are mandatory? but as you find a cruise speed at about 125knts you tend to get used to it and even flow with the rhythm, and to the point that you can certainly start to cover some serious distance with that 720nm range at your disposal.

There is a slight pull from the engine that pulls the aircraft to the right, which is to be expected with a powerful engine (In this case) and a light-frame, more bodies in the seats (add weight) and full fuel tanks do dampen the effect a little.

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The aircraft looks better in the air than on the ground, the DA20 looked odd even stumpy, but the DA40 is about right with that longer cabin. Design wise you can't fault it as the aircraft reflects the light very well (body and glass) and Alabeo have perfected the chrome spinner on the nose to perfection, and Joe the average pilot is the standard placement with great animation moves (or bad glances). for detailing note the walk grips on the wing root, they are really expertly well done.

Lighting

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Lighting is good but nothing to write home about. One knob adjusts the dial/Instrument lighting and another knob adjusts the twin over head spot lighting. Between them you can easily find a nice ambience of light and working outside view. External is quite dark, Nav (position), Strobe and one landing and one taxi light in the left wing.

Landing

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After a spin around Cape Cod, Massachusetts good olde USA, It was time to head back to KMVY and Martha's Vineyard Airport. The Bendix King KX 165A autopliot is a nice thing to have and it is very easy and effective to use. Easy to adjust the pitch and target (Arm) a new altitude you can adjust your pitch on the fly to what you want. The Bendix King KN-62A TSO VOR 2 Navigation Receiver was a bit of a "funny bugger". I tried several VOR frequencies from the start of the flight but they didn't work? Then suddenly it was working?

But you have to admire those beautiful slender wings with lovely swept uptakes at the tips, it is a very nice looking aircraft from certain angles.

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My first manual landing was quite easy. Your speed range is 60knts to 85knts on approach and an easy 200fpm descent, so I kept it around 65knts and skipped down on to the runway, My second approach under the ILS was not? I made the mistake of relying on the beam to lower my speed to around 55knts. The aircraft felt good there, but when we were released at the end of the beam you sorta flew on and I made the mistake of lowering the throttle. I came down and with a thud and a then spring back upwards again from that (too) flexible undercarriage and again came earthwards with another thud and a dent in my flying skills.

Try that one again...

Third try I found out what you had to do right.

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As your speed is quite low anyway, then dropping the flaps doesn't really affect your descent, yes to have to compensate for the drop in speed for the extra drag, but otherwise it is quite smooth. 

65Knts is a nice speed on the ILS slope (300fpm descent), Alabeo by the way gives you a full set of "DA40 performance" tables and "Reference" notes that gives you weight to speed references. The trick is when you come off the ILS slope and your first instinct is to lower the lower to settle on the runway, but it doesn't work like that as noted above. The best way is power down to the runway by using the same speed (65knts) and keeping the descent rate in check, and only slightly pitching smoothly up at the last minute to a perfect landing and then closing the throttle. It works but of course your going to land a bit long. ("So what are you going to do then, Take points off me!") I didn't even touch the brakes until the speed was way down either in letting the friction do all the work for me.

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As when on the takeoff roll your energies are focused on keeping the aircraft straight, It is more difficult than it looks, but not impossible, just focus and be smooth as the aircraft hates sudden movements. It is the lightness and almost ultralight in feel and you have to treat it as much.

So overall the aircraft is a bit of a contradiction. It is a roomy four passenger aircraft with a ton of power but flies and feels like a smaller very light machine, your aim is to find that balance between the two.

Liveries

There is one blank livery and five designs. All are very nice but basic, the UK G registered livery is the best and colourful.

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Summary

Alabeo's of Alabeo's past are now quite different. They are full working machines with most of the features and extras that you used to get with the original Carenado releases, even the quality is now at the same level and all the good for all of that.

The DA40 looks and feels like a local flier, but how many local flying GA aircraft can carry four people 720 nm...  that's not bad, but the DA40 is not fast, fast either at a cruise speed around 150knts.

Flying wise it is and feels vulnerable on the ground and getting from it and returning to it (It is quite safe) but very competent in the air, and easy to fly and highly efficient as well. It is debatable to want the standard glass panel cockpit, but the olde style dial and gauge panel is a nice easier option without all those myriad of menus and screen visual overkill, it makes flying easier and actually more efficient...  But to one's own.

Quality is excellent in every area, from the detailing to modeling and reflections. It is certainly up to the standard of quality we expect and get today from X-Plane.

Final word really comes down to how you would fly it and not quality or cost or features as the aircraft has all of that. If you love flying modern aircraft over middle range distances with a great view of the world outside, then you won't find a better aircraft to swoon away a Sunday afternoon, it is noisy as noted, but there is fun in the noise and fun is the word here...  The Diamond Star DA40 is a real fun aircraft.

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The Diamond Star DA40 by Alabeo is available from the New X-Plane.Org Store here : Alabeo Diamond DA40

And is priced at only US$26.95

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Installation :   Download file size is 160.70mb to your X-Plane - GA Aircraft Folder. Installed file size is 251.50mb

Notes: None

Documents :  Four documents that covers performance tables and references, normal and emergency procedures. Manuals for the KFC225 Autopilot and X-Plane default GNS430 GPS.

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Requirements :
X-Plane 10.30 (or higher) - Windows XP-Vista-7-8 (or higher) or MAC OS 10.6 (or higher) or Linux - Pentium 2 GHz - 4GB RAM - 1GB Video card - 240MB available hard disk space
Current version: Initial Release

Developer Support Site http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?showforum=106 (Carenado - Alabeo Support .Org)

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Fully featured and including:

Vision Microsystems VM 1000 Engine Instrument
Two Default X-Plane 10 GNS430
Volumetric side view prop effect
High quality 3D model and textures.
Blank texture for creating your own designs.
Accurately reproduced flight characteristics
64-bit compatible.
Plugin-enhanced
FPS-optimized model.
SuperManipulator scroll wheel support

Aircraft Details

    • Crew: one pilot;
    • Capacity: three passengers;
    • Length: 26 ft 5 in (8.1 m);
    • Wingspan: 39 ft 2 in (11.9 m);
    • Height: 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m);
    • Wing area: 145.3 ft² (13.5 m²);
    • Empty weight: 1,755 lb (795 kg);
    • Loaded weight: 2,645 lb (1,198 kg);
    • Useful load: 890 lb (403 kg);
    • Max. takeoff weight: 2,645 lb (1,198 kg); and
    • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming IO-360-M1A air-cooled, 4-cylinder horizontally-opposed piston engine, 180 hp (134 kW).

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Review by Stephen Dutton

18th July 2015

Copyright©2015: X-Plane Reviews

Review System Specifications:

Computer System:  - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27”- 9 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 6970M 2048 mb- Seagate 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Mac OS Yosemite 10.10.1 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.35 (final)

Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Scenery or Aircraft

- KMVY - Martha's Vineyard 4.5 by dkm (http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?app=downloads&showfile=27251) - Free

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Guest Siege   
Guest Siege

Did you find it hard to taxi?  Love the plane, but getting it to the runway with the apparent castering wheels was a complete mess.  I'll have to recheck my controls but everything else seemed to work fine.  Any advice?

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Did you find it hard to taxi?  Love the plane, but getting it to the runway with the apparent castering wheels was a complete mess.  I'll have to recheck my controls but everything else seemed to work fine.  Any advice?

Do you use a Saitek system? It is a known problem on those joysticks. Yes I had that problem and have referred it to Carenado, note it on the X-Plane.Org Thread.  http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?s=cdc9ae51c5d0d9ea8992415dd9303c90&showforum=106

 

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Guest Siege   
Guest Siege

Thanks for the reply and link.  Much appreciated, and I know I'm not going crazy. :)

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Thanks for the reply and link.  Much appreciated, and I know I'm not going crazy. :)

No your not going crazy unless you try to taxi and park the aircraft :)

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Guest Guest   
Guest Guest

Do you need to have an external yoke/joystick or can you just use the mouse to fly the aircraft?

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17 hours ago, Guest Guest said:

Do you need to have an external yoke/joystick or can you just use the mouse to fly the aircraft?

 

You can use a mouse or trackpad, but it is not the easiest way to fly or very authentic, invest in at least a 3 way joystick. SD

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