Diamond's Twin Flies ... Frugally
While Eclipse is trying to redefine the personal jet market, Diamond Aircraft looks like it's well on the way to creating a whole new class of light twin. The company created quite a buzz in the industry when it published some seemingly outlandish performance numbers for its DA42 -- how could any airplane carry four people and their baggage 1,000 miles on less than 15 gph? Well, according to the numbers coming back from the first few flights of the TwinStar, those figures might be a shade on the conservative side. "People are skeptical about it," Peter Maurer, Diamond's North American manager, told AVweb. "They think they can't be right." In fact, the airplane, which took off for the first time last Monday (barely more than a year after it left the drawing board), hit 180 knots while it's Thielert Centurion 135-hp diesels sipped about 10 gallons per hour -- not each, but combined. Throw in the lower cost of the Jet A that will run the engines and a projected acquisition cost around $368,000, and the TwinStar is bound to catch the eye of people who thought they weren't interested in the redundancy factor of two propellers. "We will be very able competition to high-performance singles," said Maurer.
The TwinStar is the first new twin in decades and is designed to incorporate all the latest goodies that customers in this bracket likely want. Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) is standard and gives the pilot a single lever to control the power output from each engine ... yes, fewer levers than your average constant-speed or carbureted single. The lever also automatically sets prop pitch. A separate pitch control may be available on training versions -- presumably so that students can become more familiar with the old-fashioned setup in the majority of aircraft they're likely to come across. The available glass panel takes the whole Jet A thing one step further: Engine power is expressed like it is in jets, by percent -- not by rpm and manifold pressure. There's also talk of an anti-icing system, although a known-ice setup may be impractical for the weight it would add. Flight testing will continue toward European certification by the end of next year. Introduction of the TwinStar in North America may come early in 2004. We may not have to wait that long to see one on this side of the pond, however. Maurer said it's possible the TwinStar will be shown at one or more of the major shows next year, but he's not making any promises. "It depends on how the program proceeds," he said. "We don't know when we will have one in North America."