First TBM 700C2 Arrives In U.S.

 - January 14, 2008, 5:13 AM

The first customer TBM 700C2, the latest variant of EADS Socata’s Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-64-powered turboprop single, has arrived at Socata’s U.S. headquarters in Pembroke Pines, Fla., ready for delivery to its Wisconsin-based owner as soon as FAA certification is finalized, which was expected at press time. Compared with its predecessor, the TBM 700B, the C has an 815-pound increase in mtow (to 7,394 pounds from 6,579 pounds), an upgraded avionics package from Honeywell and a second baggage compartment behind the pressurized cabin. The airframe and landing gear have been beefed up to accommodate the increased weight. Also, the redesigned interior has cabin seats dynamically tested to 20 gs.

Though the base price of the C over the B has increased by some $150,000 to $2.64 million, onboard oxygen and air conditioning–each $25,000 options on earlier TBMs–are now standard. According to the company, TBM 700C2s are typically selling at $2.66 million, including all options. One of the most popular is the additional pilot door, priced at $50,000.

TBMs are selling, and Northeast sales representative Art Maurice believes limited production has something to do with this. Socata expects to build 34 C2s this year, with 27 earmarked for the North American market. Maurice, president of Columbia Air Services of Groton, Conn., told AIN he could easily sell more than his allocated quota of five or six TBMs this year. Socata v-p of sales and marketing Michel de Villiers, who is based at the company’s North American headquarters, told AIN that each of the company’s five U.S. distributors would receive “four to six” aircraft this year. Socata expects to build 40 TBMs next year, with 28 destined for the North American market.

In the dozen years since the first TBM 700 was delivered in 1991, Socata has fielded only 210 of the turboprop singles worldwide, with 140 of them going to North American operators. Early last year, Socata delivered its first TBM to a South African operator, Dafin Asset Finance of Johannesburg. In 2001 Luxembourg-based Jetfly ordered five TBMs (with five more on option) to start a fractional-ownership program. Jetfly took delivery of its first TBM during last year’s European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva.

Last November, North American TBM owner-operators showed their enthusiasm for their airplanes. Twenty-seven aircraft (20 percent of the North American fleet), 50 owner-pilots and a total of 160 people overall attended the five-day TBM owners and operators gathering at Los Cabos, Mexico, on the Baja Peninsula. Technical sessions were conducted by Socata, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Honeywell Bendix/King, Shadin and completions specialist Oxford Aviation. Other presenters included insurance provider CS&A, tax consultant Advocate Consulting, training providers Simcom and Aviation Safety Training and maintenance shop Rice Lake Air Center.

The featured speaker was Albert Murrer, v-p of flight operations for medical lab Quest Diagnostics. His company operates six TBM 700B freighters six days a week, flying almost exclusively overnight. Murrer outlined the dispatch and operational reliability of the TBMs, which each fly between 1,000 and 1,200 hr per year in a variety of weather. The TBM 700B freighter, introduced at the NBAA Convention in 2001, has a freight volume of 123 cu ft and can carry a payload of 1,600 pounds thanks to its reinforced floor. Quest’s TBMs are based in Pennsylvania and Atlanta.

The first customer for the new TBM 700C2 is buying his fourth TBM, having upgraded when each new model came out. De Villiers and Maurice both agree that this is commonplace among buyers of factory-new TBMs. The aircraft hold their value well, they said, pointing out that new TBMs cost about $1.2 million in 1991; today, those same aircraft are selling for $1.5 million or more. Fewer than 10 TBMs are available on the used market, said de Villiers, with “a good spread” of the 12-year product run represented.