No Co-Pilot Needed

When I wrote up my impressions of the Diamondstar after my first few flights, I didn’t dwell on the three drawbacks that I noticed even after my first test flight in the plane:

1. The canopy offers incredible views, but that means that you get warmed by the sun. A lot.

2. The seats, which are engineered to help you withstand a 27g crash, do not move. That position you are in when you sit down? You’ll be in that position for the duration of the flight.

3. The controls for the airplane are the rudder pedal and the control stick. That comes up through a hole in the seat, right between your knees. It makes you feel like a fighter pilot, but it might not be that nice for the passenger in the right seat.

I have now moved to a new plane, but those three disadvantages remain. And I have a few other minor ones that I have added to the list. Part of the time with the plane is nudging forward (toward perfection), looking for solutions to each of these issues.

1. I am very embarrassed at how long it took for me to figure out that the solution to the solar gain through the canopy was to block the sun. I know. Seems obvious. It is a solved problem in many other environments, but for some reason moving to the plane all of my usually skills vanished. “Sun! There’s no escape!” Really? No escape? How about using this three dollar, pop-open, suction-cup mounted sun shade they make for cars. Really, for the same purpose. Ta-dah!


Small lever to recline



2. The seats are being addressed as I write this. Up at the factory they have removed the original seats from Romeo Delta and will replace them with the Hydrolock seats, which have a little level allowing you to recline a little bit. It’s not a lie-flat sort of deal, like you are crossing the pond on Virgin Atlantic, but believe me that changing the angle a little bit during a several hour flight makes all the difference.


Sensors galore

3. The DA42 is sometimes used as a sensor platform, where there are a bunch of electronics mounted in the nose (and sometimes in the wings), and the pilot monitors them while flying a pattern over the terrain. They need to put the rig to run the sensors next to the pilot since she needs to operate them in flight. To do that the right seat’s stick had to be removed, so Diamond developed an STC, a Supplemental Type Certificate, which details how the stick is to be made removable. It applies to all of the planes manufactured, so the factory is able to utilize that paperwork to remove our right stick.

The right stick has been useful on occasion. When Adam and I first crossed the United States we alternated legs of flying, but since he is a better pilot he was able to land from the right seat, whereas I would be terrible at that (I’ve done it half a dozen times in eleven years). So it was nice to have for that trip. And whenever I have had someone in the front seat who wanted to see what it was like to fly, I was able to let them “take the stick” and give it a try. Very occasionally when I was taking lessons it was good for my instructor to be able to take control of the plane to demonstrate something. But, in general, the control stick at the right seat was really just in the way of the person sitting in the right seat. Most of the time that is Nell, with her laptop, trying to write. So removing it will make it easier for her to write, which makes longer trips better. Ditto for her being able to recline her seat.

Getting rid of the batteries, having a backup for the backup, more comfortable seats, a cockpit Nell can actually work in… We are getting close to a plane perfect for some long distance traveling.

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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2 Responses to No Co-Pilot Needed

  1. Sam Hermans says:

    Do you have pics of the right seat w/o stick ?

  2. I will try to post one shortly.

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