Pilot Journal
Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Crossing The Atlantic In A Single

Socata’s TBM 700C2 tops the glaciers on its way to sunny Florida

socataHigh and wide, we cruise above the forbidding white ice cap of Greenland at 28,000 feet and 300 knots groundspeed. I half expect a flight attendant to bring me a glass of pinot grigio and a plate of Camembert cheese. Except there’s no flight attendant. Drat! Next to me, über ferry pilot Margrit Waltz checks the instruments, nods to herself in satisfaction, pops one of her favorite German salty licorices into her mouth and regales me with another tale from her storied career delivering aircraft all over the world.
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Crossing The Atlantic In A Single
The TBM 700C sits on the runway in France awaiting its morning departure for the United States. Ice-protection equipment includes an electrically de-iced and heated four-bladed Hartzell propeller, a pneumatically de-iced wing and tail unit, and a heated engine air-intake lip.
Many of her bottom-feeder charges were old and decrepit, with run-out engines and woefully inadequate instruments. “No matter, I thought. I can do it. When I moved into my 30s, I became more careful. I got married, had a child, and didn’t need to do it that way anymore,” she reasons.

“That way” included hairball trips, such as crossing on only one comm or flying into hideous forecast conditions, fun stuff to a 20-something hot stick. Once, she even landed in a total zero-zero.

“The tower told me to stay on the runway. They sent a truck out to bring me in because they couldn’t even see me!” she explains.

All of that talk of derring-do brought me back to our trip at hand. Crossing the Labrador Sea en route to Sept-Îsles, my own faith is tested once again. The roiling green sea down there looks angrier than before. Giant waves and foamy white wind lines stretch to the horizon. And I’m remembering what Nicolas Chabbert, EADS Socata’s vice president of customer support and a major force in Socata’s American success, told me back in Tarbes about his own recent TBM crossing.

“Your chances of surviving a landing in extremely big waves is almost nil. You might as well land against a building!” he laughs. “But the crossing is an adventure. Of course, you take a little bit of risk in a single-engine aircraft. The advantage is the tremendous reliability of the engine, which removes almost any risk compared to piston engines.”

“Properly flying a single turboprop engine is better than a badly managed twin,” continues Chabbert. “Of course, redundancy always is a big safety factor. But if you don’t know how to properly manage an engine-out on a twin, you’d be better off facing a difficult decision in a single-engine airplane. Why? Because you know you’ve got to manage whatever the emergency is.”

Statistics show that fatalities in twins are slightly more common than in singles. “A twin gets you to your crash site sooner. One thing people forget is if you have an engine failure in a twin, go land now. Because 35 or 40 minutes flying on one engine is about the physical limit for most pilots,” explains Chabbert.


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