Photos Courtesy of Joe Casey and Deanna Wallace
Change is usually not welcome when it first enters your life, but often in hindsight that change ends up being the start of a good thing. The best-laid plans can be nice, but a diversion – an unplanned change that takes you down a road less traveled – can be the start of something exciting.
So was the case about six months ago when I was to fly a King Air 90 from India back to the United States. My colleague Deanna Wallace was flying with me to return a King Air 200. We were to fly in unison (not formation) together, landing at the same locations and within a short time from each other. Now, for me, that is a golden trip. I love long journeys in the mighty King Air. And the India to U.S. route takes a pilot through virtually every kind of climate, ranging from the humidity of India to the arid deserts of the Middle East, through Europe, and across the always unpredictable North Atlantic and Northern Canada.
All was well as we sat in business class aboard the big Boeing 767 to Europe, but upon landing, I found my phone inundated with phone calls and texts. It was a “good news/bad news” sort of message that got my attention. The bad news was the India ferry flight was pushed back at least a month and I had to return home. The good news was a DA62 needed to be moved from Austria to Florida. My first response: “What is a DA62?”
Deanna’s Perspective: I was so excited to be accompanying Joe to pick up the two King Airs in India, as this was to be a sort of “supervised solo” through the region, with him in one aircraft and myself in another. When we got the word that we’d be heading to Austria to pick up a DA62 instead, I just remember both of us looking at each other and asking, “Have you ever flown a DA62? Nope. Me either. Ask them to send us a POH to read on the way to the airport.” There wasn’t a question as to whether we could safely fly the plane, simply the excitement at getting to discover a new airframe and the enjoyment of flying it out of Europe and to the U.S.
Yes, I was that much of a Diamond Aircraft rookie. The Diamond lineup of airplanes simply was not on my radar screen, but I was about to get a baptism into the Diamond world. There was a nearly new DA62 at the Diamond Factory in Weiner Neustadt (LOAN) and Deanna and I were to fly it back to the United States. I googled “DA62” and discovered pictures of one of the sleekest airplanes ever made. This was going to be a fun diversion.
Upon arriving at the LOAN Airport, we found N62KZ, our steed for the North Atlantic flight. N62KZ is a gorgeous dark gray color with light gray accents. I found it to be particularly stunning in the dense fog of Austria. Deanna and I quickly found IFR departures are not allowed out of LOAN and the weather upon our arrival to the airport was seriously low IFR. This bought us time, time which we used to learn as much as possible about the DA62. And what’s the best way to gain knowledge of the DA62 while in LOAN? Go on a factory tour.
Now, I’ve been inside several aircraft factories, including Piper in Vero Beach, Beechcraft in Wichita, and even the Huey Helicopter Factory in Amarillo. But this place was different. Instead of the rivet-filled, aluminum-everywhere scene found in the typical aircraft manufacturer facility, Diamond was filled with lots and lots of composite materials.
We started at the beginning and saw sheets on sheets of composite material beginning the formation process. The sleek lines of the Diamond aircraft were just starting its formative stages, but you could see the plane taking shape as we moved throughout the plant. Flight controls, avionics, windows and interiors were all installed as the aircraft moved through the facility. Toward the end, the wings were bolted into place and paint applied.
The Diamond facility was clean, modern, organized and a bit hot. The ovens that cure the composite process throughout the plant provided a bit of warmth that contrasted nicely to the rainy, coolness outside. This is hard to describe, but the Diamond factory sort of “fit” the Austrian location. When I think of Austria, I think of the classic movie, “The Sound of Music.” Gorgeous mountain scenery and a European country that is one of the gems of the region. I think the same of the Diamond Aircraft. It is a beautiful airplane that is on the cutting edge of aviation. I gained an immense appreciation for the process and precision that the employees applied to the process.
Flying the DA62
Deanna and I flipped a coin to determine who would get the left seat, then decided that we’d switch places each day. I ordered a gob of deicing fluid for the FIKI airplane and soon discovered that it was one of the best decisions of the trip. The icy North Atlantic was in our future and I wanted all the additional fluid I could find. The DA62 has plenty of storage space, and we found the useful load sufficient to load up luggage, deicing fluid and top the fuel tanks with jet fuel.
Yes, you read that right: jet fuel. The DA62 is a multi-engine, diesel-burning airplane and jet fuel works perfectly. In fact, I learned to love those FADEC (Fully Automated Digital Electronic Control) diesel engines.
We launched from LOAN late in the day and were soon on the way to Hamburg, Germany (EDDH). We had a short tech stop (quick-turn stop) there, then continued to Stavanger, Norway (ENZV). Darkness dominated the leg to Norway and we used up a ton of deicing fluid in our attempts to thwart the ice and its bad aerodynamic effects. I used the deice fluid liberally, but knew I had plenty. We saw nothing but clouds the whole flight from Germany to Norway until our descent. Upon breaking out of the clouds, the small villages nestled in the fjords gave us our first view of this ridiculously beautiful country. Even at night I knew we were somewhere special.
The next morning, I filled the fuel tanks and filled the deice fluid reservoirs. Our next stop was EKVG, the Vagar Airport on the Faroe Islands. I was more than excited to visit the Faroe Islands. I’ve flown over the Faroe Islands many times, but it was never a stopping point, as the airplanes I normally fly over the North Atlantic route have the range to bypass the Faroe Islands. I can unequivocally report the Faroe Islands are as beautiful as you may have heard. Rugged, jutting mountains rise from the sea and create a scene that made me want more. On our particular visit, the sun peeked through the broken, thin cloud layer to give us a natural laser show that was unparalleled to any view I’ve experienced before. The approach into EKVG is amongst the mountains and the video Deanna took of the approach records one of the most beautiful places on earth in my opinion.
Deanna’s Perspective: The arrival into the Faroe Islands was a stunning view of sheer cliffs and rock formations jutting out of the North Atlantic Ocean. The lighting was perfect and we requested a meandering, visual approach to the airport in order to explore the geography a bit more before landing. It was easy to tell why high winds and swirling wind patterns may deter many from landing there, but I wouldn’t have traded the destination and view for anything.
We went through security and found a nice eating establishment in the airline terminal building. The people seemed warm and friendly, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time. The departure was all too soon, and I look forward to the day when I get to return, hopefully with time to explore.
The weather on the way to Keflavik, Iceland, was nice, with the sun skimming the horizon for a long time. The gravity of the earth seemed to hold it from rising high at all, but it provided plenty of time for us to get comfortable in the DA62. In what was to be our final leg of this day, we flew to Iceland in just 2.3 hours and burned only 40 gallons of Jet-A while cruising at 184 KTAS. Those are some pretty remarkable numbers when considering the comfort, speed and efficiency. And, those numbers were not abnormal. We saw cruise speeds of 180 to 185 KTAS along the entire route to Florida and averaged 9 gph on each engine, or 18 gph total along the entire flight.
We landed in the middle of the day in Iceland, but the sun was already dipping to the horizon. The sun is short-lived in latitudes this far north in the wintertime, and we only had 5 to 6 hours of sunlight in the day. The weather in Greenland precluded a departure, so we ended up with a two-leg day, and lots of time in Iceland to explore. The next day the winds would not allow us to land in Greenland with acceptable reserves, so we ended up staying in Iceland for two nights, with a full day in between to explore. There are few places I’d rather explore more than Iceland.
Deanna’s Perspective: I always joke that Joe gets “stuck” in all the cool places on his trips, while I manage to get delayed in places where there is little to see without getting very creative. Although he was settling into his normal “non-flying day” routine of answering emails, returning calls and the never-ending administrative duties of his business, we decided to take advantage of the rare layover and explore an area known as the “Golden Circle.” While we ran out of daylight before we made it around even an abbreviated tour, it was neat to see the variety of landscapes that portion of Iceland had to offer, including mountains, nature preservation, farmlands, waterfalls and barren, rocky shorelines.
We finally were able to leave Iceland for Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (BGSF) in the darkness of the next morning, and the sun greeted us about an hour into the trip. There’s not much to see over the chilly waters of the North Atlantic, but there is A LOT to see on the eastern coast of Greenland. On this day, east Greenland had high clouds that bathed the snow-covered mountains in what seemed to be an eternal sunset. The “golden hour,” as many photographers call it, is when the colors are soft and perfect
Well, picture a scene of immense, unspoiled natural beauty bathed in such lighting, and let that scene roll along for nearly a full hour. It was splendid. We flew about 1,500 feet over the Greenland icecap and then landed in the “golden hour” light at BGSF. It was one of the more memorable flights of my career. We capped off the flight with a walk to the diner in the airline terminal at BGSF, where we had a muskox burger for lunch. Only in Greenland.
Deanna’s Perspective: “You want me to eat what…?”
By now, I was completely comfortable in the DA62. It is certainly not a hard airplane to fly and has wonderful flight characteristics. I was completely familiar with the G1000 avionics suite and had grown to appreciate the nuances of the airplane, especially the control of the engines and deicing systems. More importantly, I had become very comfortable with the performance. I was able to push the range and allow a lesser reserve than the super conservative reserve I applied to the earlier portions of the trip.
We flew from BGSF to CYFB (Iqaluit, Canada) to CYWK (Wabush, Canada) and finally ended up in the good ole United States in Bangor, Maine (KBGR). This was by far the longest day of our journey and good weather dominated the trip except for the nighttime approach and landing at Bangor. We landed there in driving rain, harsh winds and terrible visibility. The performance of the DA62 was impressive as we had covered lots of inhospitable ground and inhospitable weather in one day.
No matter what country you come from, it is always nice to be back on “home turf.” I always treasure the feeling of returning to American soil. But despite being in the destination country, we still had a long way to go. Maine is far from Florida, and the next day was to be filled with us flying down the Appalachian Mountains.
Ironically, I recently purchased a nearly-new Cirrus SR22T (G6) and I was to pick up this airplane at the Cirrus Completion Center at the McGhee Tyson Airport (KTYS) in Knoxville, Tennessee. The weather was splendid throughout our flight to KTYS and I fully enjoyed the view of the Appalachians. But, my part of this long ferry was coming to an end, with Deanna completing the delivery of the DA62 to its final destination (KFXE) in Florida.
In all, we flew just over 30 hours in the DA62, which was about the same time in the air that we would have expected of the much longer trip in the much faster King Air. But, this trip was at a much lower altitude with some views that can only be seen from that vantage point. Along the way, I gained a serious appreciation for the performance, comfort and style of the DA62. It is one fine aircraft that I’d happily fly anywhere on earth – literally.