Twenty-five years after production of the TBM turboprop single began, Daher recently rolled out the 800th example—a TBM 930 that, after posing for the camera with employees at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Tarbes, France, crossed the Atlantic for delivery to regional distributor Elliott Aviation in Des Moines, Iowa. A quarter century is long enough that a recap of how this popular and capable airplane got to S/N 800 is in order.
Perhaps not everyone remembers what the letters TBM signified 25 years ago. TB stands for Tarbes; and the M stands for Mooney.
The idea of a pressurized single, pioneered by the Mooney M22 Mustang (1964) and more firmly established by the Cessna P210 (1978), was shooting out broader roots in the early 1980s with the Piper Malibu, Beech Lightning and Smith Prop-Jet. Mooney returned to the fray with the M30/301, which first flew in April 1983, powered by a 360-hp Lycoming piston engine. The airplane logged 70 hours before Mooney parent Republic Steel was acquired by Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV), which had no interest in piston aircraft manufacturing. A Minnesota-based investment company held Mooney briefly, but then a French-based consortium led by Paris-based Mooney dealer Alec Couvelaire bought the company.
Couvelaire, small in stature but a giant in personality, brought fierce passion to the table; someone once observed that, no matter what he was saying, Couvelaire sounded as though he were announcing World War III. He and his team concluded that the 301 was too heavy, too slow (300 knots should be the target, not 301 mph) and needed a turboprop in the nose. Mooney and Aerospatiale (Socata) formed a joint venture, TBM International, in 1987 with plans for two production lines to build the TBM 700: in Kerrville, Texas to supply U.S. demand; and in Tarbes, France, for the rest of the world.
The TBM 700, much heavier than the 301 but with a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A in the nose providing almost twice the power, first flew in July 1988. French and FAA certification followed in 1990 but in 1991, suffering from a shortage of money that has long dogged the plucky enterprise, Mooney pulled out. The M in the airplane’s name remains to this day, and the program passed through the parental hands of Airbus/EADS before ending up with current owner Daher in 2008.
Comparing the first TBM 700 with today’s TBM 930 reveals that while the airplane’s performance and the sophistication of its cockpit have made undeniably major strides, so has the price. A 1991 model carried a price of $1.3 million when new. According to the U.S. government CPI inflation calculator, $1.3 million in 1990 dollars had the buying power of $2.3 million in 2016; the price of the TBM 930 in 2016 dollars is 1.8 times that amount.
1991 TBM 700 2016 TBM 930
Price $1.3 million ($2.3M in 2016 $) $3.9 - $4.1 million
Flat-rated power 700 shp 850 shp
Max ramp 6,613 lbs 7,430 lbs
Max takeoff 6,580 lbs 7,394 lbs
Standard empty 3,946 lbs 4,629 lbs
Max usable fuel 1,863 lbs 1,949 lbs
Max cruise speed 300 ktas at 26,000 ft 330 ktas at 28,000 ft
Max range, full tanks 1,672 nm 1,730 nm
Avionics BendixKing EFIS 40, KFC 275 Garmin G3000
The 500th TBM was a TBM 850 that rolled out of the factory in 2009, followed by the 600th at the end of 2011 (also a TBM 850). The 700th TBM was a TBM 900 completed in 2014. Daher has taken orders for some 150 TBM 900s and TBM 930s, and as of September 15 this year 132 had been delivered.
The TBM 900 introduced winglets, a vertical fin strake and new tail cone; a Hartzell five-blade composite propeller and redesigned spinner; and a restyled panel in the cockpit for better visibility and interaction with secondary system controls. The TBM 900 uses Garmin’s G1000 avionics suite, with a pair of 10-inch screens and a 15-inch multifunction display, along with a physical keyboard for navigation and communication functions.
With the TBM 930, Daher retained the TBM 900’s airframe enhancements while integrating the Garmin G3000 avionics suite, with three wide-format WXGA displays and touchscreen controllers. The interior of the TBM 930 has redesigned seating and headrests, along with a new choice of wood or carbon-fiber finishes. Polished metal is used for handles, door sills and steps.
To date, TBMs have logged 1.37 million flight hours, equivalent to 8,500 flights around the world. The fleet is flown by 730 customers in 35 countries on six continents. On September 15, the first TBM 930 to be based in the UK was delivered to Attila Balogh, CEO of Partner in Pet Food, which operates nine pet food factories in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Netherlands. He expects to fly the airplane 250 hours a year, primarily for business but also for pleasure with his family. Nicolas Chabbert, senior vice president of Daher’s airplane business, said that Balogh “personifies the new generation of entrepreneur in Europe, who considers a business aircraft such as the TBM—with its excellent cost-to-speed ratio—an essential instrument for a company’s growth.”
In France, regulations have enabled the TBM to be used for public passenger transport since 2013. Drawing on the French experience, the EASA plans to allow such operations across Europe beginning next year.