The anticipated production glut of very light jet competition hasn’t yet hurt Socata, which recently announced delivery of its 61st single-engine TBM 850 while noting that the business turboprop has surpassed 100 orders in less than 18 months on the market.
Socata chairman and CEO Jean-Michel Léonard told NBAA Convention News that the French manufacturer’s prospects for this year are “very promising with sales of 50 TBM 850s within reach,” of which 41 are for the U.S. market. New sales are supported by a record backlog and a 19-percent increase in production to around 50 airplanes per year–the highest rate since the TBM program started in 1990.
The sales successes build on Socata’s good fortunes in the international marketplace, although most sales have been to U.S. buyers. Socata reported that about a dozen orders have been placed by operators in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and, most recently, Europe, where fractional operator Jetfly bought four. The 61st TBM 850 was delivered to Newport Beach, Calif. real estate developer Walter Eeds, who also owns a TBM 700, the 850’s predecessor.
Launched in December 2005, the TBM 850 has an impressive order tally to meet the challenge of very light jets in the category of the Eclipse 500 and Cessna Citation Mustang. Socata last year delivered 42 of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66D-powered TBM 850s compared to 31 TBM 700s and one TBM 700C2 delivered in 2005. The TBM 850 builds on the success of the TBM 700 model that Socata produced between 1990 and 2005.
It offers pilots and operators a maximum 320 ktas cruising speed at FL 260. With the 850, Socata owner-pilots asked for an even faster airplane than the 700, Léonard said. “Owner-pilots are attracted by the VLJ’s higher speed and comparable comfort, but not its 50-percent-higher operating costs and more expensive insurance premiums,” Leonard said. “And they do not need to undertake transition training to operate the 850.”
He stressed that the new development would not have been possible without having consulted dozens of private owner fliers and distributors who asked for “speed, more speed and even more speed” as their three most important priorities. Socata satisfied this demand with the more powerful PT6A-66D turboprop engine.
The TBM 850’s base price is $2.62 million; while the 2007 model with typical customer options and equipped for reduced vertical separation minimums operations lists at $2.85 million. The Eclipse 500, by comparison, sells for around $1.6 million.