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TBM 700C2


EADS Socata kicks it up a notch with more airplanes for sale utility- improved systems and cabin.


The Mecca of spring sport flying- EAA Sun ‘n Fun 2003- might seem an odd place to find aviators crowding around a business turboprop. And given the politics of war and conflict at work in April- seeing throngs around a French-made airplane added to the illusion of normalcy that accompanied the successful event.

It seems that- war and international politics aside- as far as most pilots are concerned- a good airplane is a good airplane – point of origin notwithstanding. And when what was already known as a good airplane shows up with even more-impressive specifications- well- to hell with the foolish- parochial rhetoric about 'Freedom Fries' and 'Freedom Toast.'

Seeing the masses pawing- not picketing- the TBM 700C2 turbine airplane from EADS Socata- provided graphic proof that pilots are always pilots- and given that this incarnation of the popular TBM 700 offers so much more than the preceding variants- no reason was needed to explain the attraction.

As is often the case- no visibly distinctive changes mark the TBM 700C2 from its predecessors. Nonetheless- the TBM 700C2 delivers more flexibility and utility than the previous Socata TBM 700  and the company delivered on its promise to certificate and deliver before the end of 2002- making many new business aircraft buyers happy fliers in the New Year.

Heritage:

Introduced in the late 1980s- the Aerospatiale/Socata TBM700 represented a departure in the realm of business turboprops – a single in a world where twin-engine airplanes dominated business aviation and on-demand charter operations.

A single-engine airplane had been produced before- but only one other single-propjet airplane model was in production when the TBM 700 came into existence- and it couldn’t have been more different – Cessna’s highly successful Caravan- an unpressurized propjet single developed for the utility market in the early 1980s.

It is in the years since the advent of the Caravan and TBM 700 that new singles have dominated turboprop airplanes development- to the point where the number of singles now flying or in development exceeds the number of propjet twin aircraft in production.

In the early 1990s – just as new entry-level jets like the Citation Jet and Sino-Swearingen SJ30 were supposed to render propjets to the history pages – Pilatus Aircraft became the third company to field a single engine turboprop aircraft- further fueling the field’s growth with the sturdy and fast PC-12. A few years later in the mid-1990s- the emergence of a turboprop conversion for the New Piper Malibu and Mirage pressurized single piston engine airplanes added to the popularity of the concept- and New Piper added yet another high-speed contender in the late 1990s by developing its own growth version of the Malibu dubbed the Meridian.

Now no less than four other single-engine turboprops are in development – one of them an adaptation of an already certificated pressurized piston single airplanes for sale. Two others are also in certification flight tests- and yet another has been in preliminary flight tests. So why this surge in turboprop development when faster business jets were supposed to crimp the appeal of the propjet?

Costs- for one- are a factor. Yes- much has been made of the promise of new million-dollar jets with operating cost as stingy as a twin engine airplanes - but none yet exist – and the nearest is still a couple of years away- so a single propjet airplane remains the lowest-cost entry into flying behind a turbine engine – both from a purchase and operating-cost perspective.

Yet that isn’t all. Utility is another factor. Runway requirements- cabin volumes and hot-and-high operating numbers make some single-engine propjets quite appealing.

As for speed- well- the TBM 700C2 leads this pack of singles with a top cruise of about 300 knots. That gives away only about 50 knots to the early Citations- CitationJets- CJ1s and the like – a speed difference that amounts to only a few minutes on all but the longest trips.

Safety first:

Perhaps most important to the growth in the single-engine turboprop field is the change in the U.S. and Canadian regulatory treatment of the single allowing for hire IFR use. While most TBM 700s are owner flown – as are most of the pressurized single engine aircraft flying – the recognition of the relatively high safety record of the propjet single engine airplane for sale nonetheless enhanced the respect pilots have for the single-engine turboprop aircraft for sale.

While one recent accident may have tarnished the record of the TBM 700 in the eyes of some- the fact remains that the difference in long-term safety statistics between single- and multi-engine turboprops is statistically insignificant – thanks in large part to the enviably low in-flight shut-down rate of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A powerplant.

All TBM 700s fly behind a particularly robust version of the PT6A- the same engine that powers the vast majority of today’s crop of the single-engine propjets airplanes for sale. The PT6A-64 used on all TBM 700s is flat rated to 700 shp – and has never suffered an in-flight shut down. No surprise- then- that Socata made no changes to the TBM 700C2’s powerplant.

Also no surprise: Industry and operator groups are mounting a campaign to sway the European Union’s Joint Aviation Authority to recognize the same safety benefits and change its rules to allow for-hire IFR use of single-engine propjets on the Continent.

Systems and strength improvements:

Socata improved on some systems- (such as air conditioning and aircraft avionics); increased access to storage space; and increased the space available for storage. But most of all- EADS Socata improved on the strength of the airframe to improve on the utility of the airplane for sale. Making the empty plane heavier and stronger were inevitable outcomes necessitated by the advancing demands of its customers over the years.

The earliest TBM 700 airplanes weighed-in quite light for their type – but the equipment level left something to be desired in the eyes of many jet aircraft buyers. So- standard equipment lists grew- options expanded and- with these changes- empty weight grew to the point that a fully loaded- fully fueled airplane could scarcely accommodate a pilot and luggage.

By strengthening the main-wing spar- landing gear- tires and other components- EADS Socata managed to win an increase in maximum takeoff weight to 7-394 pounds- a substantial 815-pound boost from the 6-579 maximum of the TBM 700B. But how does that translate to a better airplane?

Go far- fast- and loaded…

The heavier structures coupled with the reduction in systems weights ultimately yield an airplane capable of taking on full fuel- 910 pounds of load in the cabin- and flying more than 1-500 nautical miles at about 270 knots at FL260 using 1-677 pounds of fuel (leaving ample fuel reserves).

Plan for speeds of around the 255 knots and cut out more fuel for full NBAA reserves and the TBM 700C2 can still cover nearly 1-200 nautical miles – while carrying nearly 1-400 pounds of load. Clearly- the extra 815 pounds of allowable weight provides a major improvement in utility.

With 910 pounds- you can carry four and luggage for an extended holiday. Make it five with bags for a typical business trip- and you could cover nearly 1-700 nautical miles and still maintain NBAA reserves. Alternatively- shorten the leg- lower the fuel load- and you can increase the cabin load up to the full six seats and luggage for the whole gang.

Regardless of how the TBM 700C2 is loaded or fueled- the speed capability remains the same: Nearly 300 knots at high-speed cruise- the best in its class – and better than all but two of the twin turboprops - both ships running more than double the horsepower and consuming fuel at much higher flow rates.

The only downside to the higher gross weights come mainly near the airport- where the 4-knot-higher stall speed factors into an increase in runway requirements of about 300 feet.

Beyond the payload:

Many other changes accompanied the strengthening that gives the TBM 700C2 its higher operating weights – some which saved weight and improved on space- comfort- safety/survival and pilot awareness.

For example- changing to a Honeywell system for cabin environmental control and air conditioning saved weight and space – space that helped designers create the added luggage space.

A new interior design and new 20-G seats improved cabin comfort and space- as well as occupant safety.

And for the pilot-in-command- EADS/Socata installed Dual Garmin GNS 530 all-in-one IFR GPS/Nav/Comm/ILS/GS units- new Traffic Alert and Terrain Warning equipment- and a BFGoodrich Stormscope Wx-500 system.

To display navigation- weather-- terrain- and traffic-hazard data- the company opted for Honeywell’s top-of-the-line KMD 850 Multi-Function Display – a display that also works with the airborne weather radar system.

Other improvements include a new tri-band emergency locator transmitter (ELT) that includes aircraft identifier information in its transmissions.

The company also updated the emergency oxygen system to a tanked system from a chemical oxygen-generation system that offered a mere 12 minutes of O2 during an emergency- such as loss of pressurization. The change was made to comply with requirements for aircraft that can fly at the C2’s new certified service ceiling of 31-000 msl – 1-000 feet higher than on the TBM 700B.

Overall- the standard-equipment list for the TBM 700C2 leaves little to want for the seasoned aviator. In fact- between multiple hazard-awareness gear for terrain- traffic and weather- GPS navigation gear- an MFD and flight director- the only optional equipment available for the TBM 700C2 is a Flitefone.

Value at closing and en route

Standard-equipped- a TBM 700C2 aircraft for sale pitches in at a price of $2.66 million- the near-jet speed and long-range capabilities of the TBM 700C2 make it competitive with some light jets- aircraft with speed advantages that gain them only a few minutes on the most-typical missions flown by business-turbine aircraft – 350 to 500 nautical miles.

Other advantages also favor the TBM 700C2- including available payload and runway requirements. But one advantage will stand out for many operators considering the TBM 700C2: direct operating costs. Where the airplane meets the airways- the TBM 700C2 comes in at only about $1 per nautical mile to fly – competitive with some piston twins and far ahead of any jet competitor.

Given the price and runway advantages of the French turboprop- many a pilot ready for turbine power will find the TBM 700C2 an attractive alternative.

Taken together- the total package of value- performance and flexibility should help EADS Socata easily sell out its planned allocation of 40 TBM 700C2s planned for production in 2003. At those numbers – and with strong orders already in hand – EADS Socata looks to be the only planemaker who will deliver more propjets in 2003 than in 2002.

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