Daher-Socata will be exhibiting the TBM 850 Elite, the latest version of its single-turboprop business/utility aircraft, at EBACE 2012 in Geneva. Its main feature is the “quick-change” capability from the conventional six-seat arrangement to a configuration with four forward-facing seats, with the rest of the volume being made available for more luggage. Other improvements can be found in the avionics suite.
Customers of the French airframer started asking for more baggage capacity. “Our TBM 850 Elite offers the flexibility of a sports utility vehicle while delivering the performance of a sports car,” said Nicolas Chabbert, senior vice president of Daher-Socata’s aircraft division.
Removing the two rear seats creates immediate and obstacle-free access to all luggage areas. Depending on the size and number of pieces of baggage, a small or a large cargo net can be used.
The change of configuration is not as easy as it can be in a car, however. The manufacturer suggests its customers should plan for “a bit less than half a day” to make the change. Seats can be removed and repositioned in just 30 minutes, and then the carpets re-installed and cargo nets set in place.
In the cockpit, two new avionics options are being offered on the Elite model. The first is a long-range KHF 1050 HF radio. The second is a Garmin GSR 56 transceiver using the global Iridium satellite constellation. “It gives you the capabilities of a smart phone,” a Daher-Socata spokesman told AIN. The main benefit is that meteorological information, such as the XM Weather service, will be available outside North America. It also enables near real-time positioning to be transmitted to an operations center on the ground. Of course, occupants also can make phone calls or send text messages.
As for the interior look, new carbon-fiber trim can be seen in the central upper panel, table cover exterior insert and cabinet door cover. Some interior fittings have received gold-and-brush-metal treatment.
Meanwhile, in Daher-Socata’s customer support operation, the “Exclusive Maintenance” program has been extended to cover scheduled maintenance costs (for the original retail buyer of the aircraft) through the aircraft’s fifth annual inspection, or up to 1,000 total flight hours, whichever comes first. Additional benefits available to TBM 850 Elite customers include an avionics system warranty extension to five years for all Garmin equipment. The same applies to the L-3 Avionics Stormscope WX500 and Honeywell’s traffic advisory system, KRA405 radar altimeter and distance measuring equipment.
An average-equipped TBM 850 Elite sells for $3.368 million. The company, based at Tarbes in the south of France, has garnered about 20 firm orders for the new model.
This year, Daher-Socata (Stand 1439) is planning to deliver 36 TBM 850s, slightly fewer than the 38 delivered last year. “We attained our delivery goals in 2011 despite the very difficult economic environment worldwide,” Chabbert said. U.S. customers represented 84 percent of the sales; Latin America was in second position, at 10 percent, followed by the Asia Pacific region and Europe.
By the end of this year, the TBM family’s total flight time is expected to be very close to the symbolic one-million-hour mark.