I want one. And if you’re thinking about stepping up to your first jet in the next few years, you will, too, once you fly it. The Diamond D-Jet, which Diamond Aircraft is developing as its flagship product, represents what’s likely to be the first Part 23, FAA-certified, single-engine, turbofan-powered jet in aviation history—the first to market in a segment coveted by many companies.
Why do I want one? Four reasons: It’s fast, efficient, easy to fly, and has great ramp presence. It’s the perfect first jet to get an aspiring jet owner/pilot up and cruising in the flight levels at speeds above 350 mph.
On the day of my test flight, I was to fly serial number 003, the most recently built of Diamond’s three test planes. S/N 003 conforms aerodynamically to the production version, and thus, has almost identical performance to the future production aircraft. It’s your typical experimental flight-test airplane, with the interior replaced by flight-test equipment and instrumentation. Additionally, due to the test nature of the D-Jet, Transport Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the FAA) requires that all flight crew wear a parachute and the full suite of survival gear.
I’ve had my eye on the D-Jet since Diamond announced the program three years ago, and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to fly it. So when Diamond President Peter Maurer asked, “Do you mind wearing a flight suit, helmet, oxygen mask and parachute?” I responded, “Sign me up!” without hesitation.
I suited up for the flight and then met with Diamond’s experimental test pilot, Mark Elwess, who briefed me on the test area and general operating procedures for the test plane. After our preflight briefing, we walked out to the plane, did our preflight inspection and strapped into the D-Jet. Though it’s not outfitted with a production interior, the cockpit was quite comfortable, with more than adequate forward and side visibility while sitting on the ground. After we completed our before-engine-start checklist, Elwess instructed me to turn the engine switch from “Off” to “Start”—pretty simple. At ground idle, the Williams International FJ33-5A engine was burning 84 pounds per hour, or about 12 gph at 24.7% N1. After we got the engine started, we taxied out to runway 15 at London, Ontario’s airport. The weather for our flight was perfect: light winds out of the south, scattered cumulus clouds and a ground temp of 20 degrees C.
Cyrus Sigari (left) and Diamond’s Mark Elwess (right) prepare to fly Diamond D-Jet S/N 003. Because the aircraft is still in the testing stage, Transport Canada requires all flight crew to wear a parachute and full suite of survival gear.
As I pulled up to the runway, I was instructed by Elwess to push the takeoff configuration button prior to calling the control tower. This button is pushed just prior to takeoff to ensure that the aircraft is properly configured (flap and trim positioning) prior to departure. If the aircraft isn’t configured properly, a CAS message is displayed on the MFD. If you forget to push the button before throttle up, then the system automatically will complete the checks and post the CAS message.
After I got my takeoff clearance, we lined up, and I smoothly advanced the single thrust lever to takeoff thrust, then quickly began accelerating down the runway. I began my rotation at 83 knots and broke ground about 2, 500 feet down the runway. Shortly after liftoff, I trimmed out for an initial climb of 165 KIAS, climbing at 1, 700 fpm and burning 850 pounds of fuel per hour.
The D-Jet’s climb performance was impressive. Climbing through 16, 000 feet, we were at 175 KIAS (235 KTAS) with a 1, 300 fpm climb rate, and we were burning 588 pounds per hour at ISA+10 degrees C.
Due to airspace restrictions, we were limited to 20, 000 feet, which is short of the D-Jet’s 25, 000-foot service ceiling. At 20, 000 feet, I allowed the D-Jet to accelerate to a max forward speed of 307 KTAS, burning 523 pounds of fuel per hour, or 78 gph. With a day that was 10 degrees warmer than standard temperature, and 5, 000 feet below the D-Jet’s “sweet spot, ” the aircraft was already outperforming initial performance targets.
The Diamond D-Jet is being built and assembled in the same London, Ontario, facility as other Diamond aircraft such as the DA40.
After hitting max cruise, I slowed the D-Jet to evaluate its handling qualities through a series of slow-speed to high-speed accelerations with the aircraft configured in various flap and gear configurations; no adverse or pilot-unfriendly conditions were evident. I was particularly interested in the D-Jet’s slow-speed handling, and wanted to gauge how it would perform in the terminal area in the hands of a newly transitioning jet pilot. No surprises were encountered.
I also was curious to see how the D-Jet would fare during a 2-G steep turn at 60 degrees of bank. It may have been our speed, weight and atmospheric conditions—in any case, the D-Jet is the first jet I’ve flown that’ll do a perfect steep turn with almost zero degrees pitch-up!
Diamond’s legacy as a company that got its start producing motorgliders is clear and evident in the D-Jet. Coming out of 20, 000 feet, Elwess demonstrated the jet’s impressive glide performance. With power pulled to idle, the D-Jet’s slick airframe and high-aspect-ratio wings kept us aloft for what would’ve been over 25 minutes, or an average descent rate of about 900 fpm. That’s plenty of time to get an engine restarted in the unlikely event of an in-flight shutdown, or enough time to find an alternate landing spot if relight isn’t an option.
The sleek airframe is complemented by a luxurious interior. Two exterior baggage areas offer ample storage, and the fold-down rear seats accommodate big items in the pressurized cabin.
On our first landing, we planned to do a touch-and-go. Forward visibility during landing is excellent. With the flaps extended to the landing position, the deck angle changes by approximately seven degrees nose-down, as compared to the flaps-up position during straight-and-level flight. On our approach at an 85 KIAS Vref with power stabilized and on a three-degree glideslope, the sight picture of the beginning of the runway is directly in the center of the windscreen. This is a subtle, yet very important design feature of the D-Jet that offers its pilots a visually comfortable approach to landing.
Landing the D-Jet is a nonevent—cross the runway threshold at 50 feet, slowly bring thrust to idle, and wait for the plane to come home for a well-behaved landing. Currently, the test aircraft aren’t equipped with the production trailing-link landing gear, which promises to provide pilots with even smoother landings.
As soon as the nosewheel touched down, Elwess retracted my flaps from landing to takeoff, and I applied full power, immediately accelerating back to our rotation speed and up for another circuit around the pattern. More of the same: stabilized on speed, in configuration for landing, thrust to idle at the approach end and smooth touchdown. As we pulled off the runway, I was convinced that the D-Jet was a solid machine.