Used Aircraft Guide

October 2008 Issue

Used Aircraft Guide: Diamond Katana

A sleek if low-powered trainer that has proven durable and safe. The Rotax version is a bargain buy.

Climb into your WABAC machine and set the dials for the mid-1990s. Once the whirring sounds and flashing lights stop, get out and glance around at what was then your local airport. Very different from today, huh? A lot of all-metal airplane designs, which hadn’t changed much in 40 or so years, right? If you’re lucky—or if you mis-set the machine’s controls for a couple of years later—you might see a curiosity: A T-tailed, all-composite, canopied two-seater with sailplane-like wings pulling duty as a trainer. That’s Diamond Aircraft’s DA20-A1 Katana, a sleek little machine with unmistakable European roots. The early, 81-HP Rotax-powered A1 Katanas at takeoff sounded like a sport motorcycle with a stuck throttle. Transitioning students steeped in Cessnas carried way too much speed into the flare. Good times. Since then, the DA20—in its C1 version—has evolved into what some might consider a more serious contender, thanks in part to a Continental IO-240B sporting 125 HP. Today, the DA20 soldiers on, training the next crop of pilots in fleet situations and in the traditional FBO/flight school environment. Gone is the Rotax, which on hot days made climbing to altitude a time-building experience, although you can still find A1 versions powered by it. On the used market, its years of service and by-now well-known maintenance and pilot requirements make it a worthy contender among the two-seat, tricycle-gear competition for a personal airplane.

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