DA 20 safety

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Jay

DA 20 safety

Post by Jay »

Thought I would post here and get some feedback on some observations I have made. First of all I am not a pilot. I have wanted to learn to fly for a long time. I have been doing extensive research into GA in an attempt to get some sense of its safety record - which I have discovered could be improved upon quite a bit. I have three young kids and I need to be around awhile longer.

In researching the safest GA aircraft I kept coming across Diamonds. I was then pleased to discover that not only do Diamonds have great safety records but they are also really cool airplanes that are apparently a blast to fly (I love the view of the sky from the cockpit). I visited a local flight school that has a brand new DA-20 (only 47 hours on it) with all of the last and greatest glass cockpit technology (Garmin 500, etc.). I spent a couple of hours with the lead instructor, sat in the plane, etc.
At this point I was ready to get started.

Let me also say this. I am risk averse, cautious, careful, stickler for preparation and procedure, etc. I am a surgeon by trade. I believe strongly in being overly prepared, overly cautious, managing risk and staying within my limitations, and thinking three steps ahead about what problems could arise. It was a big part of my surgical training. Because of that I felt that the risk of GA, although relatively high, can be mitigated with proper training and avoiding planes and situations that are beyond my skill level.

What concerned me a bit however (and the reason I'm posting here) is some information I found about the DA-20 when I was researching accident history on the Aviation Safety Network web site. The number of DA-20 crashes concerned me. Not only the number of crashes but the nature of them. It seemed that a disproportionate number were engine failure, including at low altitudes during takeoff which resulted in fatalities. The number of judgment/pilot error accidents seemed disproportionately low compared to some other aircraft that are typically used for training. I also noticed that the DA-40 doesn't seem to have this problem.
This information has now led me to hold off on starting my flight training until I can gather more inforamtion. The seemingly arbitrary nature of some of the DA-20 crashes is concerning to me. Am I blowing this out of proportion? Am I missing something? Is there a known history of engine trouble with the DA-20 that hasn't been widely publicized?
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. This seems like a great community. I would love nothing more than to earn my PPL, buy a Diamond one day and join the forum as an owner.
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krellis
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by krellis »

Jay wrote:Thought I would post here and get some feedback on some observations I have made. First of all I am not a pilot. I have wanted to learn to fly for a long time. I have been doing extensive research into GA in an attempt to get some sense of its safety record - which I have discovered could be improved upon quite a bit. I have three young kids and I need to be around awhile longer.


Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. This seems like a great community. I would love nothing more than to earn my PPL, buy a Diamond one day and join the forum as an owner.
Welcome to the Diamond forum. You will find a wide range of experience with Diamond aircraft and an even wider range of opinions.

I own a 1996 DA-20-A1 which was the first of the Diamond models certified in North America. It is Rotax powered and differs in some respects from the C1 version you are referring to. I also co-own a 2010 DA-40 XLS and previously co-owned a 2006 DA-40. I am an airline pilot and have somewhat north of 16,000 total hours with probably 500 hours or so in the various Diamond airplanes.

Safety is probably the number one selling point of Diamond aircraft. I would submit that outstanding flying/handling qualities is probably number two. They are good looking airplanes, as you pointed out. The DA-20 is used primarily as a training aircraft. That would skew the accident statistics in the wrong direction. I know the A1 had very few fatal accidents, which speak to it's docile handling and well engineered airframe. The C1 seems to have more issues with the powerplant, which speaks well for the less-popular Rotax that powers our A1's. Again, great handling qualities and crash-worthiness is a hallmark across the Diamond fleet.

Both of my children soloed our A1 on their respective 16th birthdays, my son got his PPL in it and my wife is learning to fly it now. I don't know what more I can say as praise for the airplane than that. I too am very risk averse and have tried to impart that same sense of judgement on my children.

Now the down side. The owner of Diamond Aircraft (Christian Dries) does not see much future in avgas airplanes or the North American market. He told me as much a few months ago when I met him in Wiener Neustadt. His focus has shifted towards diesels, leaving product improvements and support somewhat lacking for us. The A1 is a complete orphan and the other avgas models somewhat less so. Others on this forum will disagree with me strongly on this.

As I have said before, I love my airplanes, but would have a hard time recommending purchase of a new (avgas) Diamond today. I would suggest partnering with someone who owns one already, or looking for a good used one with a like minded friend. Be prepared for high parts prices. After all, it is an airplane, the factory for the C1 is in Canada and the parent company is in the Euro zone.

Good luck on your search and I expect you will get plenty of comments on this forum.

Krea Ellis
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by Chris B »

Hi Jay -

Welcome to DAN!
Jay wrote:Is there a known history of engine trouble with the DA-20 that hasn't been widely publicized?
I have no insight into the DA20, but hope and expect that you will get unvarnished answers from others here. The stellar reputation of the Lycoming IO-360 was one of the many reasons that I chose the DA40, so I understand your concern!
Jay wrote:I was then pleased to discover that not only do Diamonds have great safety records but they are also really cool airplanes that are apparently a blast to fly (I love the view of the sky from the cockpit).
Yep. Fun to fly, and the view doesn't get better except in a sailplane! :D

As you pursue primary flight instruction, you may want to consider tail wheel aircraft. Several people encouraged me to go this route, and I am very glad that I took their advice.

Chris
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by Colin »

Hi Jay,

Welcome aboard.

This is one of the things I read before I bought my Diamondstar:

NTSB ATL98LA006

It describes an accident where the pilot misheard the tower and got behind an MD-80. Despite being 200 feet in the air the two people walked away. Since getting my plane I have read a number of accident reports that make me really happy that I have a modern, composite aircraft instead of a metal can designed in 1950.

A lot of people on the board are familiar with Philip Greenspun. He wrote a review of the DA40 and one before that for the DA20. His writing definitely influenced my decision.

I wrote up why the Diamondstar was my favorite plane. A lot of people worry about the risks of flying small planes. I wrote up one page answering the question is this safe and there's a link to another one about the top twenty-five mistakes that pilots make and how I struggle not to make them.

Statistically, engine failures don't happen to well-maintained engines and when they do, more than two thirds of the time it is a non-event which doesn't even result in an off-airport landing. (A lot of the time the engine will continue producing power and the pilot flies to the nearest runway and lands.) It is what I worry about the most and I think it is actually the least likely to kill me and my passengers.

Get an instrument rating as soon as you can because that takes you out of the biggest risk group for fatal accidents (VFR flight into instrument conditions without instrument training or rating).
Colin Summers, PP Multi-Engine IFR, ~2,600hrs
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by CFIDave »

Jay:

Statistically (and anecdotally) the Continental IO240 engine of the DA20-C1 aircraft is not quite as "bulletproof" as the Lycoming IO360 of the DA40. But the overall accident rate of the DA20 is still very close to that of the DA40 -- they're the safest single-engine GA aircraft available. You have very little to be concerned about.

My wife and I both learned to fly and got our Private licenses in DA20s 6 years ago, then "graduated" to DA40 ownership when we started working on our Instrument ratings, and then traded up to a twin diesel DA42. IMHO, there's not a better or safer basic trainer in which to learn to fly than a DA20 -- it's also a lot of fun. :)
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by Jay »

Thanks for taking the time to reply everybody. Your thoughtful responses are very helpful. krellis, the fact that you had your wife and kids learn to fly in a DA-20 pretty much says it all.

Just found another flight school in town that trains in a DA-40.

Anyone think that's as good or better than training in a DA-20?
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by krellis »

Jay wrote:Thanks for taking the time to reply everybody. Your thoughtful responses are very helpful. krellis, the fact that you had your wife and kids learn to fly in a DA-20 pretty much says it all.

Just found another flight school in town that trains in a DA-40.

Anyone think that's as good or better than training in a DA-20?
I believe the DA-20 to be the better trainer. The DA-40 is a better cross country machine. The USAF had both - the DA-20 was used in the Flight Screening Program to train (weed out) USAF pilot prospects that had zero time. The Air Force Academy had DA-20's and 40's I believe. The USAF recently switched to Cirrus aircraft for some unknown reason - I suspect there may have been support issues with the Diamonds?

The DA-20 is more responsive in roll - less roll inertia as the fuel tank is behind the seats versus in the wings. Some do not like the pitch trim system on the 20 as it is electric only and the 40 has both manual and electric trim. You can legally spin the 20 which I believe is valuable training providing your instructor is comfortable teaching spins. Most are not and have had only a cursory introduction to spins. My son took some spin training in our 20 from a neighbor who is a certified aerobatic/airshow pilot.

I don't think you can't go wrong either way and if money is less of a concern, training in the DA-40 would be fine. One other advantage of the 40 is you can carry an observer if your school allows it and/or you can observe someone else being trained. I know they do this at the University of North Dakota and Embry Riddle - probably two of the best aviation universities in the country. UND does spin training for their CFI's in either a utility category 172 or one of their Decathlon's.

I personally prefer the 20, but that is more of an emotional attachment to what was our first airplane. Hope this helps.

Krea Ellis
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by CFIDave »

One of the factors that would affect a DA20 vs. DA40 decision is "what plane do you plan to fly after you get your Private Pilot License?"

If you think you want to end up in a DA40 after your PPL, then there's an advantage in "training in what you're eventually going to fly." Particularly if you expect to fly a Garmin G1000-equipped aircraft, it's advantageous to get as much G1000 time as possible while training. Most DA40s are 2004+ models equipped with the G1000.

One of the oft-cited advantages of training in the DA20 is that most of these aircraft have round dial "steam gauges" and most student pilots expects to fly older steam gauge aircraft after they get their PPL. Personally I thought it was valuable to learn in the DA20 for this reason, particularly when I later flew Bonanzas, Barons, and Decathlons with round dials. But since your DA20 has the Garmin G500, this wouldn't apply to you.

The DA40 is actually easier to handle in gusts due to its greater weight and stability compared to a DA20. But you have the additional complexity of the constant speed prop and blue knob to manage.
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by Guest »

I found this AVweb review of the DA20 (link below) and it makes reference to "idle instability" problems with the iO-240 in the in the "Powerplant" section of the article. I think this might be the issue I had come across in the accident reports on the DA20 that I had referred to in a previous post.
It is difficult to tell from the accident reports exactly what the engine issues were so they could of course be due to any number of issues.

http://www.avweb.com/news/features/Used ... 630-1.html

I am about to start my flight training in a brand spanking new DA20 and was wondering if anyone here had experiences with this problem and what might be done to mitigate it. I thought I might discuss it with my flight instructor as well to see if he is aware and how me might handle things differently as a result.
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Re: DA 20 safety

Post by RMarkSampson »

Believe the USAF walked away from Diamonds due to the location of the USAF academy - specifically its altitude. They needed something that did not mind starting at 4-6K feet. You need a bigger engine for that and thus the economical Diamonds don't fit the mission as others. I fly my DA-20 in Florida. Even with a density alt hovering between 1.5-2K she performs extremely well - and sips fuel while doing it. I've been above 8K so she handles the altitude fine but I'm at near Va-Vno, not Vso. I just would not want to be at 1K AGL while at 8K MSL. She would need a bigger rubber band if that was where my home field was...
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