My DiamondShare Experience

It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since I signed up with DiamondShare, the DA40 shared-lease program. Now the question is, do I continue into 2014?

Diamond DA40 Sunrise

Diamond DA40 Sunrise

My first year of membership in DiamondShare is almost over. And as the end of my one-year lease approaches, I have an important choice to make: stick with the shared-lease program or find some other way to fly.

My introduction to the DiamondShare experience was somewhat unusual in that I was handed the keys to the gleaming new airplane – a Diamond DA40 XLS with the latest-software version of the Garmin G1000 cockpit – a few days before the birth of my first child last January. Having a newborn and a new airplane are both wonderful, life-changing experiences, but they don’t always mesh well, especially when exhaustion from 3 a.m. feedings makes flying the next day out of the question.

Still, the time I have spent flying the Diamond has been some of the best in the 25 years since my first solo as a teenager in a Piper Cub. A big part of the reason is how simple the DiamondShare program is. For a typical flight, I schedule a block of time online, which is usually not a problem owing to the fact that there are only three other pilots sharing the airplane with me. We’re each allowed a maximum of four reservations at any time, so finding an open slot is easy. Next I head out to the airport, open the hangar door and start my preflight of an airplane that is always cleaned and fueled, courtesy of whoever flew last.

My Diamond is based at Caldwell Airport in northern New Jersey, with two long runways, ILS and GPS Rnav instrument approaches, friendly controllers and fuel prices that aren’t exorbitant given the location a stone’s throw from New York City. Being a member in DiamondShare feels a lot like being an airplane owner, but without any of the hassles ownership can bring. Membership costs – $995 a month plus fuel in exchange for 100 hours of flying a year – are much less than the payments on a new airplane obviously, and about the same as renting a similar airplane from a local flight school here in the Northeast.

But of course this isn’t an airplane rental experience. John Armstrong, the Diamond sales representative who came up with the DiamondShare concept, likens it to the Zipcar auto rental business model, which provides its memebers with easy access to cars without having to own one.

“DiamondShare is making ownership economics of modern aircraft more attractive than acquiring older aircraft, and providing owner-like access to an exclusive group of member pilots to share the costs," he says. Member dues include extras like insurance and database updates. For owners, the benefits are pretty amazing: There are tax advantages for many buyers, while the members’ monthly payments cover the cost of the financing note on the airplane and then some.

The program is gaining “serious momentum,” Armstrong said, with 10 airplanes in the program and more on the way. The newest DiamondShare airplanes – all 2013 DA40 XLT models – are located at Caldwell Airport (KCDW); Republic Field (KFGR) on Long Island; and Raleigh-Durham International Airport (KRDU) in Raleigh, North Carolina. Each has one membership slot still open, Armstrong notes, although they get snapped up fairly quickly.

If you’d like more information, check out DiamondShare.com. As for my decision about whether to re-up for another year , you’ve probably guessed I’ve made up my mind. For me, the program is about as cose to perfect as it gets. Given my situation, I couldn’t think of a better way to fly, and I’m looking forward to settling in behind the controls of my DA40 in 2014 and beyond.

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