New TBM Cockpit Is Jet-Class

 - May 17, 2008, 3:41 AM

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.

Socata’s engineering team was working on incorporating the Honeywell Apex suite before switching to the G1000. From the outset, it had planned to use three displays–two primary flight displays (PFD) and one multifunction display (MFD). In the G1000, these displays measure 10 and 15 inches, respectively.

“Short-term information is displayed on the PFDs and long-term information on the MFD,” Dominique Acquaviva, head of Socata’s avionics department, told EBACE Convention News.

Improving safety involved making information clearer and man-machine interfaces more intuitive, she said. Moreover, redundancy is now available on all primary sensors. In addition to backup instruments, there are two attitude and two speed indication systems with crossed monitoring.

Acquaviva, a former Dassault employee, admitted that Socata has adopted some principles of the Dassault Falcon’s EASy flight deck. For example, the TBM’s cockpit features synoptic views of some systems. One shows the fuel system, another shows the electrical system and the last one, more general, shows the de-icing system and door status (closed or open), among other information. An additional customization item comes from the integration of flight-manual computation charts into the system, enabling the crew to make these calculations (for example, torque) more easily, Acquaviva explained.

Pilots will find improvements in the engine information and crew alerting system. For example, should the interturbine temperature approach a given limit, the pilot is warned the engine is entering a dangerous zone. Should the exceedance actually happen, it is recorded along with other engine parameters. “This helps maintenance technicians checking whether this was a real exceedance,” Acquaviva noted.

Trend monitoring is now part of the system, too. Data is stored on a small memory card (an SD card) that can be retrieved for processing in a service center. More integration in the avionics also allows a smarter use of alerts. The fuel pressure warning light appears dark when the aircraft is on the ground and the engine is not running.

According to Acquaviva, cooperation with Garmin was so close that only one TBM prototype was necessary, instead of the two Socata was about to dispatch. Flight testing began in July 2006 in Tarbes. The aircraft was then ferried to Garmin headquarters in Olathe, Kansas, in October. In January 2007, Socata test pilots flew it back to France.

The latest version of the TBM has a WAAS receiver, RVSM capability, an enhanced mode-S transponder and Garmin’s SafeTaxi, among other pieces of equipment.