Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Diamond Check Out

Since North Florida Aviation's aircraft were booked for the weekend, I was left with a choice between taking Sterling's Diamond DA-40 or driving to/from Tampa. I hate driving long distances, so I had to go for a check ride in the Diamond.

Christy wanted to go with me and was not dissuaded by my warnings about stalls and steep turns, so we arrived together at the airport. I met the instructor, Mike, and we discussed the plane. I grabbed a checklist and discovered that it was somewhat similar to the Cessna G1000 checklist although the Diamond had a controllable pitch propeller. I had never flown a controllable pitch prop before.

We loaded up in the plane and I started the engine. First the prop is set to max RPM and the mixture to idle cutoff. The throttle is set to about half. The master power switch is turned on then the fuel pump is turned on while the mixture is advanced to full rich for a few seconds then back to lean. Then the key is turned to start and the engine fired up while I advanced the mixture to full rich.

After listening to the ATIS, we taxied to runway 5 and did the runup. About the only difference between the DA40 runup and the Cessna was the prop. The throttle was advanced to make the engine turn 2000 RPM, then the prop lever is pulled back until the RPM and oil pressure drop, then it is put back to max rpm. This is done three times. After that, a check of the magnetos is done and the idle is verified.

With everything ok, I taxied to runway 5 and called, "Craig Tower, Cess--, uh, Ddd-diamond star 7-5-6-Delta Sierra ready to go at 5". To which the tower replied "Are you sure?"

We all got a kick out of the smarty pants, and I quipped, "Sorry, this is my first time flying this plane. I'm ready."

We were cleared for takeoff and I taxied onto the runway. The plane tended to fishtail a bit as I accelerated. The nosewheel is not steerable, so at low speeds, the brakes do the steering and at higher speeds, it is done by the rudder. I managed to keep the nose reasonably straight and pulled her up at around 55 knots.

The best rate of climb is achieved at only 70 knots, but at that low a speed and high angle of attack, the stall warning is constantly blaring, so a slightly higher speed is recommended. With three adults in the plane, we were climbing around 900 feet per minute.

We leveled off at 3800 feet and began our maneuvers. First it was a few turns at 30 degrees, then a couple of back to back steep turns at 45 degrees to get the feel of the plane. We followed that with some slow flight and a couple of stalls. The plane really won't stall. It just sits in the buffet but no actual stall occurs. I peeked in back at Christy and she had a huge smile on her face.

By this time, the cloud layer below us had thickened and the instructor got us an instrument clearance and I flew the ILS 32 at Craig with a circle to 5. There are only three flap settings, up, first and second notch. As I pass the threshold, we had slowed to below 108 and the first notch of flaps extended. I pitched nose down to generate a 500 fpm descent and adjusted the throttle to slow us a bit. Turning base, I extended the next notch. Then on final, I pushed the prop to max rpm and pulled the throttle back further. The instructor said to keep the speed to more than 70 knots to ensure a smooth landing. He explained that the plane has a tendency to drop hard below 70. I managed to set the plane down reasonably well and the set her up for climbout - Flaps to the first notch for take off, full power and out we went. Left turns around the pattern were met with a similar landing and takeoff. We made one final landing - this time a soft field landing. I glided long with a bit of power and finally set her down smoothly. We then taxied back and parked.

Christy loved the touch-and-go landings, she later told me. It was a blast flying the new plane, but I'm still not happy with the situation that brought about its use. This flight was wonderful though and I was particularly pleased that Christy liked it.

1.0 hours of dual with .2 Actual instrument and one instrument landing.

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