Tom Horne

The greenhouse effect

June 24, 2010 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

I’ve been flying this week with an AOPA staff pilot, getting instrument-current, as well as logging my biennial and annual flight reviews. (The latter is a requirement for AOPA staff pilots). We’ve been flying AOPA’s Diamond DA-40. This is a great-handling airplane that’s capable of 145-knot cruise speeds and serves well as an instrument platform. It’s also a wonderful training device for boning up on your Garmin G1000 knobology, and perfecting your autoflight techniques. No wonder so many flight training schools use the DA40.

But–and it’s a big but–we’ve been having record-setting temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic states this week. The sun’s been beating down to the tune of 95 degrees some days. Today we’re supposed to hit 98 degrees. The heat indices are topping 100 degrees. Global warming, anyone?

How does this relate to the DA40? European manufacturers are big on big canopies. And that’s a very wise design choice in terms of visibility. But ground operations can make for a sauna-like cabin. Sure, cracking open the canopy helps, but the mid-90s are the mid-90s. And it’s definitely not a dry heat. In flight, the DA40′s huge wemacs help with cabin air flow, but the fact remains. Euro-airplanes like the DA40, the Robin series, the Socata singles and others place a premium on windshield area. European weather is a creature of all that maritime air that surrounds the continent, hence the cloudy, rainy climate across the pond.  European designers were definitely not thinking of operations in, say, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, or anywhere in the southern tier of states. Places where massive, stagnant summer highs park themselves over a huge, baking land mass.

Is all that visibility worth the sauna trade-off? Probably–if you have TIS or some other means of traffic detection. Because when flying the G1000 through instrument procedures you’re heads-down–big time!

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