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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In a TBM, a pilot faced with engine failure would have a 400 fpm sink rate and an excellent 14 to one glide ratio. “That gives you a full two minutes to read and perform the engine restart procedure, and you’ve only lost 800 feet. In France, unlike in the United States, our lower liability insurance restrictions let us do actual engine-out practice at 10,000 feet. That is a tremendous confidence builder,” says Chabbert.

The last set piece in our chess match with the North Atlantic is landing the airplane at Socata’s Florida facilities, where it will be checked with a fine-tooth comb—not always the way things were done in the past. “We made big changes with our subsidiary in Florida,” says de Segovia. “After the technical inspections, nobody was making sure the aesthetics were perfect. Now we polish the nosecone, clean off the bugs and touch up any scuffs. All the big and little things that make a new aircraft owner say, ‘Wow!’ He must feel positive he got full value for the $2.7 million he spent for his new baby.”

The pièce de résistance comes if an owner takes personal delivery in Florida. Socata rolls out the red carpet—literally—including gold stanchions with red velvet ropes. Pictures are taken of the key and paperwork exchange. Sometimes acceptance flights are made with a company pilot.

I, however, don’t get to see and experience all of that excitement, for I was soon back on land in Albany. I watch Waltz taxi away from the Albany ramp. What a ride indeed. Even if the TBM made an anticlimax of “cheating death” over the North Atlantic, it was a ball.

As Stéphane Mayer told me before we left France, “The TBM 700 is an object of passion and love for our customers. They love the aircraft, and they love to fly in it.” Roger that.



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