TOP FLIGHTS AWARDS NOMINEES: New Turboprops

 - November 20, 2020, 8:10 AM

TBM 940

Innovation: Daher's $4.3 million, six-seat, single-engine TBM 940 is the first turboprop weighing less than 12,500 pounds to offer a standard, factory-installed integrated autothrottle and automatic deicing. The aircraft also offers the optional emergency HomeSafe Autoland system that can autonomously land the aircraft in the event of an inflight emergency.

Cabin: Available in eight standard “harmony” color combinations, the cabin features a new design and heated seats, additional thermal insulation in the sidewalls, a central shelf with side storage, an additional 115-volt outlet at the right rear seat panel, and an extra USB port (bringing the total number of ports to six for passengers and three for the pilots). Custom paint and interior is also available. New-production TBMs have better environmental controls, vapor-cycle air conditioning, avionics upgrades, a small beverage cabinet, a wider main cabin entry door well-suited for loading outsized cargo, and an optional separate forward pilot’s door. The passenger seat bottoms are 18 inches wide and have 22-inch-high backs. A single club table deploys from the righthand sidewall, and there are power outlets for laptops.

TBM 940
TBM 940

Performance and Efficiency: The TBM 940’s Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66D engine (850 shp) propels the aircraft to a near light jet maximum cruise speed of 330 knots (at 28,000 feet) and the aircraft can climb to its maximum altitude of 31,000 feet in just 18 minutes. The aircraft can cruise in the high-teens at speeds up to 290 knots. Lightly loaded, the aircraft can easily operate from runways as short as 1,500 feet and at the maximum takeoff weight of 7,394 pounds, the TBM 940 requires just 2,380 feet of runway thanks to the 940’s five-bladed swept Hartzell propeller and a short field approach speed of just 85 knots. The propeller also helps ameliorate takeoff noise, which is just 76.4 dB. Maximum range is 1,730 nm (pilot, no passengers). Average fuel burn is 60 gph. Manufacturer Daher claims the direct per mile operating cost of the aircraft is just $1.9, considerably less than other single-engine turboprops and both single and twin engine light jets. Regular maintenance inspections are required every 12 months or 200 hours.

Safety: Most TBMs are operated single pilot and Daher has moved aggressively to incorporate the latest technology into the aircraft build around the Garmin G3000 avionics package that both reduce pilot workload and improve safety. Single-lever power control and the Garmin autothrottle allows the 940’s PT6A-66D engine to be operated simply, safely, and efficiently. It uses software to analyze many aircraft and atmospheric variables and automatically control engine power to produce a selected and safe airspeed. The Garmin system also has synthetic vision that includes traffic. The automatic de-icing system displays a message to alert the crew when ice is detected and activates if the pilot does not take appropriate action. The system provides airframe, propeller, and windshield deicing and triggers the inertial particle separator to prevent engine icing. Most notable, the 940 now offers the HomeSafe emergency autoland system based on Garmin’s Emergency Autoland system and available as part of the G3000 integrated flight deck. The system can be activated manually via an orange button atop the instrument panel or semi-automatically if the emergency descent mode (EDM) has been engaged.

Design Significance: The TBM 940 keeps a time-tested airframe that dates back to the 1980s relevant and competitive via the timely incorporation of the latest technologies and interior upgrades.


PIPER M600 SLS

Innovation: The new, six-seat $2.994 million Piper M600 SLS—safety, luxury, and support—sports the new Autoland/Halo system from Garmin with new interior refinements and an “Ultimate Care Program” that covers all scheduled maintenance and hourly calendar-based inspections. 

Cabin: Interior features include Piper’s EXP interior with a selection of materials, stitching patterns, and contrasting threads as well as optional two-tone leather seats, choice of veneers, and Alacantra fabric. The EXP feature offers more ways to customize the aircraft’s appearance including embroidered or embossed logos, customized cockpit and threshold plates, custom ceiling bezels, leather-wrapped control yokes, new exterior-paint schemes, and luggage to match the scheme selected. The aircraft is also available with a Hartzell, five-blade, swept-tip propeller that reduces cabin noise and vibration.

Piper M600 SLS
Piper M600 SLS

Performance and Efficiency: A derivative of Piper’s M500, the M600 features a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A engine rated for 600 shp, a Hartzell four-bladed propeller, and a redesigned wing that packs more fuel—908 pounds more than on the M500and yields more speed. The new wing is also home to a wider-track main landing gear design that makes strong crosswinds—up to 17 knots—easier to handle on the runway. The aircraft has a maximum range of 1,658 nm, a top cruising speed of 274 knots, and a maximum altitude of 30,000 feet. Fuel burn at cruise power is 39 gph and available payload with full fuel is 422 pounds. This is an airplane that can easily use runways shorter than 3,500 feet (sea level, standard temperature). The M600 does particularly well under high altitude/high temperature conditions like those encountered in places such as Telluride, Colorado (field elevation 9,078 feet).  

Starting in mid-2018, the M600 received additional upgrades, including a new fuel control unit that facilitates starting temperatures that are up to 100 deg F cooler. Piper is offering free fuel, maintenance, training, consumables, inspections, and Jeppesen charts for the next five years for M600s purchased through December.

Safety: The M600 SLS features the Halo Safety System that provides autoland capability enabled by the Garmin G3000 avionics package including autothrottle. In a situation where a pilot becomes incapacitated, Halo either automatically or by a passenger pushing a button engages and finds a nearby suitable airport, flies an approach to that airport, lowers landing gear and flaps, lands, stops, then shuts down the engine. Halo comprises Autoland, the autothrottle (required for Autoland), Garmin Emergency Descent Mode and Enhanced Stability and Protection, Surface Watch, SafeTaxi, and Flight Stream wireless gateway.

Design Significance: The EXP interior package and Halo Autoland system give the M600 SLS a fresh looking interior coupled to the latest safety technology.


PILATUS PC-12 NGX

Innovation: At $5.4 million (typically equipped), the latest iteration of the PC-12 isn’t the least expensive single-engine turboprop, but it is arguably the most versatile. This fresh update of this strong-selling turboprop single features single-lever power control, more cruise speed, and optional autothrottle combined with a restyled and quieter cabin and larger passenger windows.

Cabin: The NGX’s new cabin refinements include windows that have been reshaped and enlarged 10 percent and redesigned executive seats offer more headroom, full recline, and improved lumbar support. Quick-release seat attachments enable quick cabin reconfiguration without the help of maintenance crews. A new headliner provides indirect lighting, more uniform and quiet air distribution, and increased headroom. Passenger positions now feature dual cupholders and integrated sidewall USB ports. Six different interiors—designed by BMW Group’s Designworks—are offered with the executive NGX, as are bespoke interiors and paint schemes. The engine can be operated in a low-prop-speed mode, lowering cabin noise without compromising performance thanks to an electronic propeller and engine control system.  

Pilatus PC-12 NGX
Pilatus PC-12 NGX

Performance and Efficiency: Since 1994, the Pilatus PC-12 has combined go-anywhere utility with creature comforts that include a large, pressurized cabin, near 300-knot speed, and more than five hours of endurance. Stall speed at maximum takeoff weight is 67 knots, remarkable for a 10,000-pound airplane. The trailing-link landing gear smooths out the sloppiest of landings and facilitates touchdown on paved or unpaved surfaces.

The NGX is powered by the new Pratt & Whitney PT6E-67XP, which features full digital flight envelope protection, precise and intuitive engine control, reduced pilot workload, and optimized power. Controlled by a single power lever, the PT6E-67XP produces 1,825 shp and is flat-rated to 1,100 shp in cruise flight, a 10 percent increase from the PC-12’s PT6A-67P. It allows the NGX to reach a maximum cruise speed of 290 knots. The new engine will have a 5,000 hour time-between-overhaul period with hot section inspections only required on-condition and be able to transmit data on more than 100 engine parameters that are continuously monitored, adjusted, and recorded. The NGX is certified to fly without fuel anti-ice additive. 

Safety: The NGX’s Advanced Cockpit Environment (ACE) is built around Honeywell’s Epic 2.0 avionics with a new touchscreen avionics controller with integrated bezel contour grips intended to stabilize the pilot’s hand in turbulence. ACE’s standard safety features include emergency descent mode and tactile feedback to aid in avoiding unintentional excessive bank angles. Other NGX flight deck features include brighter, more vivid color flight displays; night-mode charts; pilot-defined visual approaches; high resolution 2D airport moving maps; Honeywell’s SmartLanding and SmartRunway awareness systems; 3D intelligent audio with ATC playback and Bluetooth interface; electronic checklists linked to crew alerting system messages; worldwide graphical weather; support for European protected mode-controller pilot data link communications (PM-CPDLC) mandates; and faster database loading. A fully-integrated digital autothrottle is optional.

Design Significance: Significant updates and upgrades will keep the Pilatus PC-12 NGX a strong entry in the single-engine turboprop market for years to come.


EPIC E1000

Innovation: The speedy, all-carbon-fiber, six-seat Epic E1000 is a certified aircraft that builds on the company’s LT kit plane. The production E1000 differs from the kit LT in subtle ways in appearance and substantial ways in equipment and capabilities.

Cabin: The E1000’s cabin and cockpit take the latest automotive styling cues and offer all the modern conveniences. The leather reclining passenger seats are each equipped with side pockets, small item and technology storage, headset jacks, power ports, beverage holders, heat and air conditioning vents, and LED reading lights. Entry is via a rear airstair door, up a center aisle through the facing club-four passenger seat array. The 15-foot-long cabin offers more space than a twin-engine King Air C90.

Epic E1000
Epic E1000

Performance and Efficiency: Priced at $3.25 million, the E1000 has a maximum cruise speed of 325 knots. The Pratt & Whitney PT6-67A engine (derated to 1,200 shaft horsepower) propels the aircraft to its maximum cruise altitude of 34,000 feet in just 15 minutes and burns of 60 gallons per hour at cruise speeds of 300 knots down low, and 40 gallons per hour at 300 knots at 34,000 feet. Full fuel payload is 1,100 pounds with a range of 1,650 nm. The E1000 is a short-field champ, needing just 1,600 feet of runway for takeoff.

Safety: The E1000 features the three-screen Garmin G1000 NXi avionics system and GFC 700 digital autopilot with radar, radar altimeter, and Iridium satellite transceiver options.

Design Significance: The Epic E1000 delivers high-performance in a stylish package for a very competitive price.