Sales of new TBM 850 boost Socata’s bottom line

 - March 7, 2007, 11:57 AM

Introduction of the TBM 850 “very fast turboprop” single to meet the challenge of the VLJ has firmly lifted Socata’s fortunes out of the stagnation that the company endured in 2003 and 2004. The EADS subsidiary delivered 42 TBM 850s last year, a 35-percent improvement on the 31 TBM 700s delivered the previous year. The company also delivered one TBM 700C2, all of which contributed to a revenue increase of 21 percent. The aerostructures business grew by 13 percent.

“The jump in 2006 revenue and a growing order book that has reached a record U562 million [$730 million] leaves us with good prospects for 2007,” said chairman and CEO Stéphane Mayer. He expects overall revenues this year to grow by at least 10 percent, while the company’s general aviation segment will log a 20-percent increase in revenues.

Mayer attributes some of the company’s success to the TBM 850, announced in December 2005. He said the airplane offers pilots and operators a maximum cruising speed of 320 ktas at FL 260, filling a niche for Socata owner-pilots, who wanted an airplane faster than the TBM 700. He said customers and distributors told the company that they wanted “speed, more speed and even more speed,” which Socata has satisfied by switching to the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66D.

He added that these pilots “are attracted by the very light jet’s higher speed but not its 50-percent-higher operating costs and pricier insurance premiums. And they do not need transition training to operate the 850.”

Prospects for this year are “very promising,” said Mayer, with sales of 50 TBM 850s within reach, supported by a record backlog of 40 aircraft and a 19-percent increase in production capacity.

The 2007 version of the TBM 850 features as standard equipment the latest-generation high-resolution Garmin GMX 200 multi-function display (MFD). The 20-percent-larger display is designed to improve pilots’ situational awareness, and a backlighting system offers more contrast under bright sunlight conditions. The GMX 200 will offer the options of XM Weather in the U.S. and Jeppesen ChartView en route and approach charts. The 2007 base price for the TBM 850 is $2.63 million; typically equipped, the airplane lists for $2.85 million.

In addition to the commercial success of the TBM 850, Mayer attributed Socata’s growth to sustained activity in aerostructure programs and significant customer support contracts. Revenues last year reached E228 million ($296 million), up from E188 million ($244 million) in 2005.

According to Mayer, Socata’s aerostructure business, which represents 51 percent of its activity, grew 13 percent last year. He expects that trend to continue. Its main programs are on the Airbus A380, A330/A340, A320 and A400M, the Dassault Falcon 7X and 2000EX, Embraer E170/190 and Eurocopter EC 130 and EC 135. It has also entered the competition for sections of the Airbus A350 XWB and has launched a composites fuselage research program within the new Aerospace Valley competitiveness cluster.