Owner Satisfaction

Both companies earn praise for good customer support and warranty performance.

What do owners think of the their SR20s and DA40s? To find out, we queried owners, asking them some 26 questions about their operating and ownership experiences with these two aircraft. Bottom line up top: most are highly satisfied and give the companies kudos for good support.

But thats not to say some brick bats werent hurled in both companys direction. Altogether, we heard from seven Diamond owners and 15 Cirrus owners. Heres a sampling of our findings:

Flight Activity
Cirrus owners seem to fly more hours than do Diamond owners. Even SR20 owners whove owned their airplanes for less than a year reported more hours than the Diamond owners did, sometimes by more than twice.

Cruise Speed
We asked owners to tell us what power settings they typically used for cruise and what speeds and fuel flows resulted. As noted in the previous article, these were all over the map and seemed to defy logic, in some cases.

Cirrus owners reported an average of 146 knots while the Star owners seems to cruise around 135 knots.

Speed Satisfaction
Here, Cirrus was in for some owner ire. It finished we’ll below Diamond in this category primarily, we think, because Cirrus promo may over promise on speed. Owner Peter Morton gave Cirrus a 2 on speed. If the factory had been more honest about speed-150 knots instead of 160-our expectations would not have been so unrealistic and we would rate it a 4. Cirrus tells us it has recently reduced the speed claims in its sales literature.

Seat Comfort
With regard to seat comfort, Cirrus was we’ll ahead of the Diamond, with a rating of 4.8 versus 3.6. One owner told us he improved the Stars seat comfort with the addition of foam pads from Oregon Aero.

We get the impression that owners think Diamond still needs work in this area. (We agree.) Diamond has improved the seats and recently announced a large, more flexible baggage compartment design.

Our survey indicates that readers give the Diamond a slight edge, although none of the owners complained much about poor dispatch reliability. Issues with the Diamond include prop seals swinging grease, marginal heater performance and occasional wiring and avionics problems. Owners would also like easier pre-flight access to the engine.

Cirrus owners reported hard starting, door fit problems, electrical, avionics and engine instrument issues, frequent landing light failures-since fixed-frequent failure of the Century 1000 HSI and difficulty in keeping the automatic prop governor adjusted correctly.

Both companies were praised for standing by their warranty and for providing good support in general. Again, Diamond fared a bit better, earning a 4.7 versus a 4.2 rating for Cirrus. Some SR20 owners recall the retrenchment Cirrus had a couple of years ago and complain that the company could have done better in answering the phone.

Further, several owners said it took Cirrus awhile to communicate service information effectively but that the company has improved over the past year.

One thing we were curious about: how much influence does the Cirrus parachute have on the decision to buy? Evidently some, but not much. Or at least not as much as we had imagined it would.

We asked owners to rate the influence of the parachute on their buying decision using our five-scale. The average was a lukewarm 3.2 and when asked, not a single owner said he or she would not have bought the airplane if it didnt have the parachute. We think the real buying psychology is more complex than that but we thought wed ask the question anyway.

Repeat Buyer
Last, the acid test. Having owned the airplane for a few months or a few years, how likely would these owners be to buy another Cirrus or a Diamond?

Again, Cirrus owners were satisfied and average 4.5 on the buy-again scale, which we think qualifies the airplane as a slam-dunk hit.

Diamond owners, despite shortcomings in other areas, were fanatically loyal in this regard. They averaged 4.9 on the buy-again scale, which we think is exceptional.

We wonder how other aircraft manufacturers would fare in such a survey. We may just find out in the coming months as we continue our Aviation Consumer owner satisfaction survey project.