Daher-Socata is still mulling a new eight- to 10-seat twin-engine aircraft to enter the market segment above its extremely popular TBM 850 turboprop single, but a decision could come by the end of the year.
The so-called NTx program was announced at the NBAA Convention in October, but Socata has not decided whether the new airplane will be a turboprop or a turbofan. Nicholas Chabbert, senior vice president of Daher-Socata’s Airplane Division, maintained at a press briefing yesterday that the company is in “a business plan mode.”
The company is here with the latest model year 2009 TBM 850 demonstrator, which carries Daher-Socata’s new “High Flyer” standard paint scheme and integrates optional synthetic-vision technology for its Garmin G1000 all-glass integrated flight deck.
In addition, Daher-Socata’s distributor network is now making the F.A.S.T. (fly and share your TBM) co-ownership program available for prospective European TBM 850 customers, offering buyers the opportunity to purchase a one- or two-thirds share of a new TBM 850.
This follows F.A.S.T.’s recent launch in North America. The program provides a minimum 100 days of exclusive TBM 850 use per year on an unlimited flight basis, which differs from traditional fractional ownership programs requiring the purchase of annual flight hours that are either used or lost.
“The 2009 EBACE is being held at a critical junction for the business aviation sector, when owners and operators are seeking efficiency, capability, value and speed,” said Chabbert. “This is reflected by the latest General Aviation Manufacturers Association sales figures, which show overall turboprop aircraft sales are holding up during the global crisis. Additionally, our own numbers reflect a strengthening of the European market for the TBM family, which now represents a 23-percent share of the worldwide fleet.”
At the news conference, Daher-Socata outlined its customer support excellence initiative, which covers improved communication with customers, parts distribution enhancement, technical documentation and maintenance progress.
The TBM 850 fleet has reached 200 aircraft sold and 159 delivered to date to customers around the globe.
Chabbert said that despite the world economy, owner-pilots continue to purchase new aircraft. Interestingly, he said some small jet operators are looking to “step down” and avoid to be seen as “a jet user.” He added that a turboprop “is a valuable option” for corporate transportation.
According to Chabbert, 324 TBM 700s were delivered between 1990 and 2006, when the first TBM 850s rolled off the line in Tarbes, France. He added that 207 TBM 850s are on order, and 12 have been shipped to date this year. Eighty-three percent of Daher-Socata’s customers fly their aircraft themselves.