There were more than a few moments during my three-and-a-half hours flying the Socata TBM 850 when it was easy to imagine the conversation I’d soon have with a couple of friends who own piston twins. The TBM is a suitable replacement for their aircraft–a Cessna 421 and a B55 Baron.
Farnborough-Aircraft.com, the UK company that is developing the single-turboprop F1 air-taxi, business and utility aircraft, quietly withdrew from the NBAA Convention even before the show was canceled.
Epic Aircraft continues development of its all-composite turboprop singles and very light jets, though without the $200 million in funding pledged by Indian billionaire Dr. Vijay Mallya last September at the NBAA Con- vention. The deal with Mallya isn’t dead, Epic CEO Rick Schra-meck told AIN, but has become “more complicated due to other outside partners.”
Luxembourg-based fractional ownership operator JetFly has ordered two TBM 850s. The single-turboprop aircraft will be equipped with the Garmin 1000 avionics suite and will feature a paint scheme and cabin interior designed by architect and town-planner Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Deliveries are pegged for this year.
EADS Socata’s latest TBM 850 business/utility aircraft is now available with an upgraded cockpit, based on a Garmin G1000 avionics suite. Pilots should benefit from uncluttered information display and better situational awareness. The TBM 850’s panel looks like that of the Cessna Citation Mustang very light jet, which is also based on the G1000, but Socata has customized the system to its six-seater.
EADS Socata, in a bid to enter the growing small corporate flight department and air taxi market, is evaluating the case for developing a new turboprop or business jet that would be bigger than its six-seat TBM 850 but would not replace it. The French company is seeking financial and/or industrial partnerships for the $390 million project. It expects to make a decision on the new aircraft by early 2009 and fly it within five years.
First shown as a model at a 1990 Moscow exhibition, the single-turboprop M-101T Gzhel is nearing Russian certification, expected by the end of the year, following a major airframe refinement program that was launched two years ago after tests on the first prototype. A product of the Myasishchev Experimental Design Bureau, the program was delayed for a year by the crash of one aircraft after a loss of lateral control.
A big mission for a big company usually means a big airplane with a cavernous interior and enough fuel to carry a large load over thousands of miles. But to accomplish that there is always a cost-benefit compromise. When a big mission appears for a small company, the economics often translate into a small airplane, which means even more mission compromises.
The resilience of general aviation was never more in evidence than at EAA’s AirVenture in late July, when an estimated 750,000 airplane buffs made the annual pilgrimage to east central Wisconsin for the 50th time.
At this year’s Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wis., Socata introduced the TBM 700C2, a follow-on to the successful TBM 700B turboprop single. The big change is an mtow increase of 815 lb, to 7,394 lb from 6,579 lb, giving operators improved payload/range performance. CEO Philippe Debrun called the new variant “a business-like version” of its current TBM 700.