Alabeo Diamond DA-40 Review
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Diamond DA40
For FSX/P3D/P3DV2 Published by Alabeo
Reviewed by Brian Buckley
October 2014

Introduction

The Diamond DA40 is an Austrian four-seat, single engine, light aircraft constructed from composite materials. Nowadays, it is built in both Austria and Canada and it was developed as a four-seat version of the earlier DA20 by Diamond Aircraft Industries.

Alabeo have continued in the vein in which they started, which is, as the sister ship to Carenado. They have once again produced an aircraft of such quality and style in the DA40, it leaves you in no doubt as to who is responsible. Although there is quite a stern warning on the cockpit dashboard stating that all aerobatic manoeuvres, including spinning, are prohibited, the DA40, for all intents and purposes, looks a smart little sports plane. The proof will be in the testing!

History

The DA40 was built following the success of the former DA20, which was a two seat aircraft. The DA40 was initially marketed as the DA-40-180, powered by a fuel injected Textron Lycoming IO-360 M1A engine.

Operational History

The DA40 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 aircraft can be trimmed full nose up, engine set to idle, and it will descend at 600 - 1200 ft/min at 48 kts (89 km/h) hands off. This is a lower rate of descent than the competitive Cirrus SR22 can achieve with its airframe ballistic parachute deployed.

In a 2011 analysis by Aviation Consumer magazine, the DA40 was shown to have a fatal accident rate of 0.35/100,000 hrs, 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 hrs, despite its full aircraft parachute system. By comparison, the Cessna 172 has a fatal accident rate of 0.45/100,000 hrs.

Availability and Installation

The Alabeo Diamond DA40 is available direct from Alabeo, Carenado and Alabeo resellers as a 'download only' product (some resellers also offer a master back-up CD / DVD service for a minor additional cost). The current price for the download is £16.56 or the equivalent in your own denomination. The CD back-up is typically priced at £4.42. The file size is 212MB, which is fair for a small GA aircraft and Alabeo suggest having 520MB of hard disk space available for the DA40.

Installation was very simple taking no more than five minutes from download to flying.

Features

The DA40 comes with a full complement of avionics and is therefore suited to either full hands on flying or, if you are on a lengthy flight, you can enable the very efficient autopilot.

Alabeo lists the inclusions and features as follows:
    •Vision Microsystems VM 1000 Engine Instrument;
    •Superb material shines and reflections;
    •Volumetric side view prop effect;
    •Gauges reflections;
    •Windows scratches and Blades shines;
    •High quality 3D model and textures;
    •Realistic behaviour;
    •Five HD liveries;
    •Blank texture for creating your own designs;
    •Two models (one and two pilots);
    •Normal Procedures PDF
    •Emergency Procedures PDF;
    •Performance tables PDF; and
    •References PDF.

Appearance

The HD liveries are very stylish and all have modern designs. There are also quite a large amount of DA40 liveries available on the internet for free download.


D-EASV


N8784C


G-RACL


N1113E


N2428N

The liveries are understated in my opinion, but extremely classic. They are a superb set of clean lines and sophistication, including the blank texture to let your imagination run wild and design your own livery.

As with all Alabeo aircraft, the attention to detail is outstanding. From the wheel fairings to the air intake vents, from the antenna to the door latches, everything has been modelled with true accuracy comparable to real world DA40s. The shading effects and light source on the exterior of the aircraft change as the aircrafts attitude changes. The reflections of the world outside the aircraft are also visible. All this adds up to a stunning piece of work from the Alabeo team, as we have become accustomed to.

Exterior Detail


Cloud Reflections


Dusky Shine

As always, by using the key combo of 'Shift + 2' opens up the Info Panel pop-up from where you can either select or deselect the wheel fairings. This panel also gives you the chance to choose glass reflections on the instrument panel, transparent windshield, and whether to open or close the passenger door. I didn't record any significant effect on frame rates using either choice, so it's entirely your choice. Just looking at something as simple as the wheel fairing in the screen shot below, it is easy to judge just how far the guys at Alabeo go to afford the attention to detail.
 

No Wheel Fairings


Wheel Fairings

Interior

The interior has also been given the Alabeo seal of quality and style. Every last detail having been thoroughly well designed and modelled. The leather seats and leather cowling over the stick look like you should be able to smell the tanning. The grain and pattern in the leather is really superb, including the stretch of the leather cowl as you operate the stick column - very smooth. The attention to detail on the instrument panel has also been modelled to exacting precision and real world quality. The little touches, like the instrument reflection and scuff marks on the carpets, all add up to a more realistic look and feel to the cockpit whilst having no detrimental effect on your frame rates. This all goes to making this one of the most realistic aircraft I have in my hangar today.


Pilot Stick


Seat Backs


Scuff Marks


Instrument Reflections


Seating Layout


Cockpit Curves

Instrument Panel

In earlier Diamond DA40 models, a traditional analogue set-up was used for the instrumentation and this is exactly the layout Alabeo have followed. They have recreated the instrument panel almost, if not, flawlessly. On the left panel you are faced with the fundamental 'six pack' with additional navigational instruments, whilst on the right hand side there is an electronic glass panel instrument depicting engine and electrical data. Below that instrument is another digital readout showing fuel levels.


Left Panel


Right Panel

If you have any other Alabeo aircraft. you will know by now that the gauges, needles and overall quality of the instrument panel is top quality, easy to read, crisp and clear. Well, in the DA40 this is also true. The clarity of the gauges is extremely good and all the instruments update in real time with no jitter. There is a function available to turn the glass reflections off on the instruments and this available from the pop-up panel mentioned earlier. The only real difference is the instruments have a slight dullness to their appearance, until you change the attitude of the aircraft, whereupon you will see the reflection on the glass covers.

Most of the buttons/switches are clickable throughout the cockpit, suffice to say, the ones that don't, you probably don't need anyhow. The two screen shots above show the instrument panel with the night lighting on. Again, the lighting effect adds to the real world feel to the cockpit.

There are two Garmin GNS 430 GPS units on the cockpit panel, each able to handle functions such as, communications, navigation and radio frequencies. There is also a PDF document included to get the user acquainted with them. Below, the two pictures show the panels taken from the included PDF document.


Alabeo Garmin GNS 430 GPS


GNS 430 Navigation Map Page

Animations

All the usual buttons, switches, knobs and handles within the cockpit are animated as you would expect, apart from a handful which I mentioned earlier. The main canopy opens upward and forward and the rear passenger canopy opens upwards and to the right side.


Canopies

Lighting

All the usual lights are included, such as navigation lights, strobe light, taxi light, and landing lights, all of which have been given the Alabeo treatment which is a constant through all their aircraft.

Sounds

There are 26 sound files included in the form of .wav files. As I have never flown in a DA40, I can not begin to judge whether these are correct or not. Far be it for me to question if Alabeo have got the sounds right, when they get everything else right. To my ear the sounds are consistent with the type of aircraft the DA40 is. Judge for yourself is my advice.

Performance

The table shows the performance specifications for the DA40.

There are checklists aplenty supplied with the DA40 in the form of PDF files. All of these checklists contain the necessary guides for getting this little 'Diamond' in the air with the least amount of fuss.

Following standard procedures, start up was fairly straightforward and much as you would expect. Taxiing however, was a little tricky as I found this aircraft does not need much input to get the engine powering above what you anticipated. It is enough to say, gentle acceleration is all it needs. At normal speeds turning whilst on the ground is nice and controlled and the DA40 comes to a halt when and where you want it to (at normal ground speed).

Takeoff is fairly rapid at full throttle, so with flaps set to one notch, as suggested, I rotated at around 60 kts, depending on the weight configuration I had set, although the aircraft did not actually leave the runway until I reached approximately 65 kts. Based on the checklists, this was as I expected.

Climbing was not a problem either. The DA40 is quite comfortable climbing at 70 kts, indicated airspeed, with flaps up. After reaching my desired altitude, the DA40 settled into a cruise speed of between 90 to 95 kts indicated airspeed.
 
Performance Specifications

There were some anomalies in the climb when I got to around 11,000 ft. as I found I had to keep adjusting the throttle and prop to reach the reported service ceiling of 16,400 ft. Once I achieved the service ceiling, the aircraft cruised nicely, although not at the speeds indicated in the documentation supplied. It was slightly slower but still a good regardless.

Having completed the serious side, I was up for some fun, or at least to see what fun could be had with the DA40. All I can say is the DA40 does not perform aerobatic displays very well. A loop is possible but not very gracefully. This is nonsense as on the cockpit dash it clearly states, "All aerobatic manoeuvres including spinning are prohibited.". Do not try it, it is not pretty and you could risk damaging your beautiful aircraft.

I found no matter what weight I was carrying, whether I had passengers or not, the DA40 keeps veering to the right for some reason. This is compounded by the fact the DA40 has no rudder trim.

General characteristics:
    • 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).

Performance:
    • Cruise speed: 150 knots (173 mph, 279 km/h);
    • Stall speed: 49 knots flaps down (56 mph, 91 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
    • Power/mass: 0.06802 hp/lb (110 W/kg).

Documentation

As I stated earlier, there are numerous PDF files supplied, all of which pertain to the various aspects of the DA40:
    • Alabeo GNS430 Users Guide,
    • Autopilot KFC225,
    • Emergency Procedures,
    • Normal Procedures,
    • Performance Tables, and
    • References.

All of the above are fully documented and cover everything you need to get the DA40 airborne.

Value for Money

Alabeo have come up trumps yet again. In my opinion, for a mere £16.56, you are getting another very nicely crafted Alabeo aircraft.

Simulator Performance

With FSX settings set fairly high, the DA40 performed beautifully. I had no adverse impact on frame rates and the DA40 does not take too much hard drive space, which is an added bonus.

Requirements

The Alabeo DA40 is for FSX and P3D. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:
    • Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 (32 or 64 bits);
    • Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX with SP1 and SP2 (or Acceleration Pack), or Lockheed Martin Prepar3D Flight Simulator;
    • Pentium V, 2GHz equivalent or higher, 2GB RAM, 512MB graphics card; and
    • 520MB available hard disk space.

Review Computer Specifications

    • Asus P8Z77-V motherboard;
    • Intel i7 3.4Ghz 'Sandybridge';
    • 16GB, DDR3, Corsair Vengeance, 1600MHz RAM;
    • NVidia, GTX 570SC, 1280MB, graphics card;
    • 500GB, WD Velociraptor HDD - OS;
    • 128GB, Corsair Force 3 SSD - FSX;
    • 1.5TB flight simulator add-ons;
    • Matrox TripleHead2Go - 3 x 23" Acer LCD monitors; and
    • Operating System - Windows 7, 64 Bit.

Conclusion

The Alabeo DA40's flight characteristics are true to the real world aircraft and the overall look and performance is remarkable. The cockpit is the hub of this little 'diamond', representing an older version of the prior to the use of the 'glass cockpit'. It is a beautifully rendered cockpit giving you the benefits of 'steam' instruments happily residing next to some digital instruments - the best of both worlds. If you like sporty aircraft, then the DA40 is for you.

Verdict

Pros:
Alabeo quality crafted exterior and interior.
Realistic modelling and characteristics.
Full documentation.
Superb value for money.

Cons:
Tendency to veer to the right whilst in flight.

Scores:
   ● External Model: 10/10
   ● Internal Model: 10/10
   ● Sounds: 10/10
   ● Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers): 9.5/10
   ● Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like): 10/10
   ● Documentation: 10/10
   ● Value for Money: 10/10

Alabeo's DA-40 Aircraft achieved a Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.9/10, with an "Outstanding"
and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.


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