EBACE Convention News

Socata mulls 2009 launch of twin-engine business aircraft

 - May 20, 2008, 2:54 AM

EADS Socata here on Monday outlined what its next product launch could be next year–a twin-engine business aircraft, bigger than the TBM 850 single turboprop. Some criteria, such as finding enough funding for development, still have to be met. French-based Daher taking a stake in Socata may help.

“The future product will have two more seats than the [six-seat] TBM,” CEO Jean-Michel Léonard said. The airframe’s design would reap fruits from the ongoing Fuscomp demonstration program, which is targeted at an all-composite fuselage, using liquid-resin infusion. A launch decision is expected early in 2009.

“Before that, four criteria have to be met. First, having a clear idea of the market–we now have it and are happy with the result. Second, we still have to choose between some basic design options–turboprop or turbofan, for example. Third, a sound business plan–we have just completed it. Last, but not least, we must increase our investment capacity,” Léonard explained.

This last aim will probably be attained thanks to new partners. Daher will thus join EADS in the company’s ownership (and possibly become the majority owner), providing Socata and Daher succeed in their joint bid for an Airbus A350XWB work package. Other options are open, such as finding partners that would be only industrial or financial and would only support Socata’s business aviation activities.

Elaborating on Daher, Léonard said the two companies have converging views. Both want to grow, he said. Moreover, while Socata needs investors to support its current efforts, Daher wants to become a fully fledged aircraft manufacturer.

Léonard also commented on sister company Airbus’s support of Epic Aircraft, another manufacturer of single turboprops, for which Airbus acts as a consultant. Léonard said Socata has indeed been involved in the talks. “But there is no agreement whatsoever,” he pointed out.

The TBM 850 program now boasts a 65-aircraft backlog, after 99 examples have been delivered. The next available position is in 2009, Nicolas Chabbert, vice president of sales and marketing, said. In Europe, two copies of the 2008 version of the TBM 850–which features a Garmin 1000 cockpit–have been delivered. Another 12 should be handed over this year.

Last year, Socata had revenues of e254 million ($390 million), 48 percent of which were in general aviation, almost all of the rest being in aerostructures.