Aircraft Spotlight: Queen of Diamonds- The Lexington Flying Club’s DA-40

The Aircraft Spotlight feature looks at an airplane type and evaluates it across six areas of particular interest to flying clubs and their members: Operating Cost, Maintenance, Insurability, Training, Cross-Country, and Fun Factor. 

The Lexington Flying Club based at Blue Grass Airport (KLEX) in Kentucky has about 150 members and a diverse fleet of six aircraft. But one of the aircraft is not like the others – the Diamond DA40. It is a sleek, composite airframe with a T-tail and a canopy that tilts forward to open. The four-seat aircraft also has a stick instead of a yoke. Club President Mike Proctor and Diamond Maintenance Officer Weslee Farley talk about how the DA40 is the queen of the club’s fleet. Scott Ramsey, the events coordinator for the Diamond Pilots Association owns a 2008 DA40 and also shared his thoughts.

The first production DA40s were built in 2000, and a diesel-powered version that runs on Jet A came out in 2002. The piston versions are built in Canada, while the diesel-powered DA40s are produced in Austria at Diamond’s headquarters.

The plane began production for the first few years with a traditional six pack. In 2004, the Diamond DA40 became the first certificated aircraft with the Garmin G1000, and the glass panel soon became the standard instrumentation for the plane.

The club bought its 2004 DA40 about 15 years ago to replace a Piper Archer, and it has round dials rather than the glass panel. “We recognized it as a very economical airplane,” Mike said. “We were seeing times of economic hardship where our members would back off of our 180-hp airplanes and fly our 150-hp or 160-hp airplanes.  Our folks are cost sensitive.”

The club also saw it as a way to offer something a little more technically challenging, with the constant speed prop and castering nose wheel, while still offering a fixed-gear aircraft.  About 50 members are checked out in the DA40. 

Operating Cost

Lexington charges $162.75 an hour, Tach time wet, which is comparable to what the club charges for its Piper Archer II ($161.75 per hour). Hourly rates are adjusted periodically and are currently based on $6.50 per gallon. However, the club provides a rebate to members if they fill up at an airport with cheaper fuel and turn in the receipt.

The DA40 has a fuel-injected Lycoming IO-360. Mike said they flight plan for 9 gph. However, Weslee recently had a fuel burn as low as 6.5 gph flying at 50 percent power on a cross country flight, which he said is typical for how he flies. An Archer usually burns around 8-10 gph.

“If you pull the prop back to 2100 RPM, the tach is tied to your average RPM over the flight,” Mike said. “You’re not going to use as much fuel, and since we’re paying for the fuel, you’ll get compensated for that [based on the club’s reimbursement policy].”

For example, Weslee said on a recent flight he logged 2.6 hours but the tach was only 2.1 hours.

If you’re looking to buy a DA40, an online search found a range from about $250,000 to $300,000, for an early 2000s model to as high as $600,000 or more for a model that’s only a few years old. Prices may vary depending on total time and avionics.


In general, maintenance costs are reasonable. Annuals run about $3,000, but on occasion they can go as high as $4,000 or $5,000, Mike said.

Having a proven engine like the IO-360 helps keep maintenance costs down. However, for those DA40s with the Austro diesel engine, it’s likely the plane will need to go to a Diamond-certified Service Center, Diamond Pilot Association Ed McDonald said. (For more about the Diamond Pilot Association type club, see this month’s Club Spotlight).

Even if you have an IO-360-powered DA40, the certified service centers may be an attractive option. With fewer Diamonds in the market compared with the ubiquitous Cessnas and Pipers, some mechanics may be less familiar with working on the composite aircraft.

Because it is a composite airframe, it is the only aircraft the Lexington Flying Club keeps in a hangar to help protect it from the elements. One thing that has to be checked, but only every 2,000 hours, is the grounding strips that are imbedded throughout the airplane. Mike also said there is a wing inspection required for composite aircraft that doesn’t exist for aluminum aircraft, but they are not frequent.

Other things to keep an eye on are the brakes. The DA40 has a free-castering nose wheel and uses differential braking to steer. Therefore, the brakes might need to replaced sooner than in an aircraft with nose-wheel steering. 

In addition, there is an AD that requires a nose-axle die penetrant test every 200 hours to check for cracks in the vertical post of the nose gear. Scott said the test costs a couple hundred dollars. At 3,000 hours, there is a required nose wheel inspection or replacement.

Weslee also pointed out the pilots need to be careful when closing the canopy as there is a small access window on either side that is easily broken if it is not closed. The repair costs can be several thousand dollars to fix.

Something else to watch for is the cable for the adjustable rudder pedals. The seat is fixed so it can’t slide back, which is a safety feature. However, the cable to adjust the rudders can break if people are not careful. Weslee suggests pilots adjust the pedals by reaching in from the outside, which is easier to do than when sitting in the plane.


Lexington pays $9,3000 a year for insurance on the Diamond, which is primarily because of a high hull value ($7,300 for the hull and $2,000 for liability cover).

The insurance company doesn’t have any requirements to fly the DA40 like they did when the club had a Cherokee Arrow with retractable gear.

However, the club does require members take a written test that covers systems, as well as flight characteristics, before their check flight. The open-book test is available on the club’s website and is a way to ensure members have read the POH before flying.

“We do have a little more stringent checkout than just a sign off from a CFI because we recognize members may not have experienced the several nuances of a Diamond aircraft,” Mike said.

A lot of members flying the Diamond “haven’t flown a constant speed prop, aren’t familiar with the manifold pressure gauge, the free-castering nose wheel, and there are some differences with how the autopilot works,” Weslee said. 

The autopilot is coupled to an HSI, and the HSI is coupled to the Garmin 530 GPS. The Diamond also has an engine monitoring system that is different from other aircraft in the club’s fleet.


Although the Diamond can be used for training, the club doesn’t allow student pilots to fly the aircraft (they don’t allow student pilots to fly the Archer either). They do allow members to use the DA40 for advanced ratings like instrument and commercial.

“The DA40 has the best safety record in its class,” Scott said. “It’s all part of the way it’s designed.” It has fixed seats with adjustable rudder pedals “so you can never have a seat slide back like in the Cessna,” he said. Another safety feature is the aluminum fuel tanks between the spars in the wings, which reduce the possibility of a post-crash fire.

It also has a low stall speed and docile stall characteristics. “You can’t really get it to drop a wing in a stall,” Scott said. “If you take it all the way to a stall, if a wing starts to drop it just does the falling leaf thing, so there are no stall-spin accidents.” 

If Diamond Aircraft was asked why it didn’t include an aircraft parachute like Cirrus, the company will tell you, “Our aircraft are designed to be inherently safe,” Scott said.

Cross Country Travel

Weslee said the book lists max cruise at 137 knots, but he usually flies at 45 to 50 percent power, giving him a cruise speed around 115 knots with a fuel burn of about 6.5 to 7 gph.

“The interesting thing about that aircraft is with the constant speed propeller, with throttling back, you’re basically getting Cessna speeds for cheaper,” he said. “I know the Cessna 172s in the club cruise at 120 knots. I’ve found with throttling back, you’re actually saving $10 to $20 dollars per flight hour than if you took a Cessna 172 on a cross country.”

For pilots who value speed over economy, the DA40 also performs well. Scott said, “I typically cruise at 140 knots, lean of peak at 8 to 8.5 gph depending on altitude,” noting that his fixed-gear Diamond has a similar speed and fuel burn to the retractable-gear Cherokee Arrow.

Mike agreed, “That little eggshell just glides through the air. It’s a fast little thing for a 180-hp powerplant.”

The Lexington Flying Club’s 2004 DA40 has the standard 42-gallon fuel tank, where Scott’s 2008 DA40 has the extended range tanks that hold 50 gallons. His useful load is about 825 lbs. because the previous owner chose to get all the options. With full fuel Scott has a range of five and a half to six hours, and he has flown from his home in Houston “everywhere from Alaska to Key West and pretty much everywhere in between.”

Weslee said the club’s DA40 has a useful load of between 900 and 950 lbs. and that he has flown with four adults, but without baggage or full fuel. The club’s Archer has a little higher useful load.

Getting in and out of the plane is easy as well. Besides the canopy that opens forward for the front passengers, there is a large door on the left side of the aircraft that makes it easy for the rear passengers to get in and out.

Scott really likes that the rear seats fold down and he can get his golf clubs or two full-size road bikes in the plane by taking off the wheels. That’s just not possible in an Archer.

Fun Factor

Whoever said, “image is everything” must have had the Diamond in mind. With its tapered fuselage and clean, modern cockpit dominated by the G1000, which has been standard equipment for nearly 20 years, it makes a great impression. Having a stick instead of a yoke doesn’t hurt either.

The DA40 also offers excellent visibility. “It’s like flying in a fishbowl” Mike said about the canopy. Wes added, “You can see everything from wing level and above.”

“It’s fun to fly because it has a stick, and it is a great instrument platform,” Scott said. “It’s a combination of great visibility and with those long wings it’s very efficient, making it a great plane to fly.”

Weslee agreed, “It’s a joy to fly. It’s sporty. If you want to fly cross country or do sight-seeing, it’s an absolute blast.”

“You don’t fly this airplane, you wear it, you become part of it,” Mike said. “You’re off into the ether with beautiful views and solid equipment. It has the best avionics of all the birds in our fleet.” 


Mike said the Diamond DA40 “is an Archer on steroids. It was something very easy for folks to migrate to with a little bit of training. The club was attracted by the aircraft’s economical operating costs and that it offers something a little more challenging than the 172s and Archer in our fleet.”

“The 172s are the Ford Fiesta’s of the sky,” Weslee said. “And the Diamond is the Ford Mustang of the sky.”

If your club is looking for something faster, sexier, and newer than the Pipers and Cessna’s that dominate most flying club fleets, the DA40 may fit the bill. It is versatile enough to be used as a trainer, yet just complex enough to provide members a little more of a challenge.  A fun airplane with modern avionics to go in search of the now $199 hamburger.

“I would whole heartedly recommend a club to get a Diamond,” Weslee said. “It’s very economical and a great platform for a flying club.”



Lexington Flying Club


Blue Grass Airport (KLEX)

Lexington, KY




[email protected] or (859) 252-3678

Year formed



1979 Cessna 152 ($113.25/hr)

1974 Cessna 172M ($139.50/hr)

1975 Cessna 172M ($139.50/hr)

2005 Cessna 172R ($146.75/hr)

1979 Piper Archer II ($161.75/hr)

2004 Diamond DA40 ($162.75/hr)


Rates are Tach time, wet.

Restricted Members have access to the Cessna fleet and pay an extra $8 per hour for the C-172s

Joining fee

$600 Full members

$300 Restricted Members


$64 per month - Full members

$45 per month - Restricted Members


Approximately 150


Flight Schedule Pro



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