It’s 35 degrees centigrade on the apron at Al Maktoum Airport as we step out of the air conditioned cool of the Jetex FBO Rolls-Royce which ferried us out from the terminal. The Diamond DA62 is parked between two private jets but still manages considerable ramp presence finished in an incredibly smart two-tone metallic grey.
Diamond’s Head of Flight Operations, Martin Scherrer, opens the port side gull wing door of the DA62 and we check out the cabin. It’s huge compared with its stablemate, the DA42 Twin, workhorse of training organisations all over the world. For a start, there’s a third row of seats, but the second row is also able to seat three.
Yes, this is a true 7-seat light twin. What’s more the space for each passenger is impressive with plenty of headroom – ok, a little restricted for the third row seats but still alright for anyone under 6ft – and the legroom even more so. Finish of the seats and cabin is immaculate and thoroughly modern – think 7-series BMW and you’d be close.
After a quick briefing by Martin on speeds and power settings, I settle into the left seat and set the rudder pedals with a simple electric adjuster. There’s no key, so start-up, after we have clearance from DWC Tower, is really simple. Really simple. Master switch, left engine switch on, press a button. The engine starts so quickly, so quietly and with zero vibration that it’s only when you release the button that you’re sure it’s running. Same with the right engine. No messing with mixture levers. It’s all controlled by the FADEC engine management system and works every time, at any temperature, cold or hot.
What we could do with is air-conditioning in our little mobile greenhouse. The demo DA62 doesn’t have it fitted but it is an option available right now, fully certified by EASA. It’s an electric system which has to be ‘off’ for takeoff and landing, but can be left on for a few minutes before startup to get the cabin nice and cold, and then used for taxi and after takeoff.
Never mind, we’re cleared to taxi to runway 30 which is a long way from the General Aviation apron. Taxying is simple, once you realise the nosewheel steering is fairly heavy. For tight turns, a touch on the brakes helps. We reach the holding point and let the FADEC perform the engine checks automatically, just with a couple of buttons to push. T & Ps are already in the green, not surprisingly given the outside temperature, and we line up on the numbers.
Pushing both throttles forward, the DA62 rapidly picks up speed. There are three on board, with full fuel, and we’re quickly at the 76 knot rotate speed. I pull back positively on the stick – yes, a proper control stick not a side stick or yoke – and we’re climbing at a surprising rate given the temperature. Martin tells me 90 knots is a good climb speed and the nose of the aircraft is high and we’re quickly at 1500 feet, which we’re not allowed above.
Departing the airport, we hope to be cleared higher but it’s not to be. Lots of aircraft in the area, many flying into the airshow, mean we conduct the whole test at 1500 feet. First, I get a feel for the controls with some left and right turns. They’re a little heavier than I remember from the DA42 but powerful and positive. There’s no meandering and it bolds well as a steady IFR platform in poor weather.
Next, we set a straight course, advance the thottle levers until 95% power is showing on the Garmin G1000 display, set the trim and wait for the speed to build up. We see 170kt come up on the G1000’s speed tape and settle – that’s about 195kt at altitude. In fact, the DA62 max speed is 202ktas according to Diamond.
Reducing the power setting to 60% reduces the speed at 140kt but also reduces the fuel burn to 44.7 litres/hour. At this setting, max range is an astonishing 1314 nautical miles. Martin clicks a knob on the G1000 and the Multi Function Display shows a range map. Apparently we could reach Cyprus at this speed.
It’s time to carry out two tests I’m not particularly happy doing at 1500ft – the engine out test and a stall. Martin clicks off the left engine and I get ready to put in a bootful of right foot but there’s no need, just a light touch keeps us straight. The FADEC system recognises the situation, automatically feathers the dead prop and it’s really a non-event. Re-starting is also a piece of cake, just flick the switch with the thottle set to idle, then advance it to match the right throttle.
The stall is equally uneventful, just a bit of sink, even though the stall warner is bleeping away. Even the ailerons are still effective when Martin, with hundreds of hours on the aircraft, wiggles them. Recovery is nose down, add power and we’re flying straight and level again in seconds.
Next are some steep turns, and as Martin had briefed, the Garmin G1000’s Electronic Stability System (ESP) kicks in as we pass 45 degrees of bank. It returns the aircraft to 30 degrees of bank unless the pilot insists and holds the stick over. Similarly it keeps an eye out for pitch and speed; theoretically it should be impossible to stall while making the low and slow turn from base to final.
We head back to the airport and ask the Tower for a touch ‘n go. I’m surprised they agree but just as we’re about to turn base, we’re told to orbit for a while. Several orbits at the circuit height of 1200ft later and we’re on final for RWY30, a touch low according to the PAPI lights but a bit of power sorts that out.
This has to be the easiest twin I’ve ever landed. Set the power to 45%, full flap, and the aircraft settles on the 90kt approach speed. Keep the power on until the flare, throttle back and we lightly chirp the tyres in touchdown. Full power, flap to the first position for takeoff, and we’re off again in seconds. Second time around we make a fullstop landing – after some more orbits on downwind – and head for the apron.
So why choose the DA62 ahead of its smaller, less expensive DA42 stablemate? Diamond Aircraft is still working on Direct Operating Costs but estimates the DA62 costs roughly 20% more than the DA42. Remember though that it burns Jet A1 or even plain old car diesel fuel, much cheaper than avgas and more readily available, and fuel consumption is much less.
The benefits of the DA62 over the DA42 are substantial too: more seats, more headroom and legroom, greater range and more performance too. Max rate of climb is 1650ft/min at max weight and that’s really impressive and gives substantial margins for operations in hot and high conditions.
Diamond Aircraft’s Sales Director Amila Karagic says it is demonstrating the DA62 to a number of Middle East operators who are “crunching the numbers” to see how it pans out. Expect to see some sales announcements in the days ahead!
This article first appeared in Arabian Aerospace at the Dubai Airshow.