Socata TBM 850 gets EASA OK, FAA certification to follow soon

 - September 26, 2006, 10:30 AM

EADS Socata last month introduced the TBM 850 turboprop single, a more powerful, faster derivative of the TBM 700. During a press conference on December 14 in Paris, company executives insisted the already certified aircraft’s performance will be competitive with that of very light jets (VLJs). Last month, the first production TBM 850 was undergoing final assembly in Tarbes, France. First deliveries of the $2.8 million aircraft are pegged for next month.

The main feature of the new six-seater is its speed–320 knots at FL260 in ISA conditions. Socata asserts that flying a “typical” (unspecified but thought to be the Cessna Citation Mustang) VLJ will save only seven minutes on a 500-nm trip. “But the direct operating costs (DOCs) will increase by 50 percent,” said Stéphane Bernard, v-p of sales and marketing.

Socata said the DOC of the TBM 850 is close to $300 per hour. On a 1,200-nm trip, flown by the “typical” VLJ at FL410 and a long-range cruise speed of 298 knots (necessary for such a distance), the TBM 850 will arrive 11 minutes sooner than the VLJ, thanks to its higher cruise speed (315 knots at FL310), Bernard asserted. The DOC advantage would remain the same.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) granted certification to the TBM 850 on November 28. “FAA certification should follow in the very near future,” chairman and CEO Stéphane Mayer said. The new aircraft first flew on February 25 and the flight-test program logged 103 flights.

Although it retains the same Hartzell propeller as the TBM 700, the TBM 850 is fitted with a more powerful engine. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66D turboprop is flat-rated to 850 shp, 150 shp more than the TBM 700’s PT6A-64 produced. The new engine also maintains more power at altitude and in hot conditions. For example, at FL310 in ISA +20 degrees C conditions, the TBM 850 cruises at 292 knots, 56 knots faster than the TBM 700C2.

Performance Improvements

The TBM 850 also gets better engine performance because of a new bleed-air system. It also retains the conventional P3 (bled from the compressor’s third stage) line but has an additional P2.5 bleed-air line that originates between stages two and three. “P3 should be used only at high altitude and for long-range cruise,” explained Nicolas Chabbert, v-p of customer support.

According to Socata, the two aircraft have the same internal and external dimensions and are nearly identical in weight, though the TBM 850 can carry an extra 60 pounds of payload with max fuel. NBAA IFR range is also similar; the TBM 850 can fly 1,519 nm at long-range cruise speed.

The TBM 850 does not target the shorter-range air limo market, Bernard said. “We are addressing the owner-flown market, which has always been the TBM’s main market. Two-thirds of our existing customers need more than 500 nm of range, and 15 percent typically fly more than 1,000 nm,” he added.

Among the TBM’s claimed advantages over a VLJ for the owner-flown market, Socata emphasized the easier transition from piston-engine aircraft. The TBM also requires less training time every year. Socata also claims lower insurance costs.

Socata built 31 TBM 700s last year, which made 2005 “a good year,” Mayer said. Since the company already has orders for 27 copies of the new TBM, it plans to ramp up production to 40 TBM 850s this year.

The new TBM, which supersedes the TBM 700C2, is priced at $2.8 million for an average model, including RVSM. The $2.577 million base price is $110,000 higher than that of the TBM 700. Mayer said that this latest iteration of the TBM is not the last one. “We are looking for a fully integrated glass cockpit, including autopilot.”