By any measure, the sky around us is an aviation mecca. For one week each spring, the weeklong Sun ’n Fun Fly-In brings thousands of flying machines and several hundred thousand people to warm, comfortable central Florida.
It’s early morning on the third day of Sun ’n Fun, and in the far distance, we can see the line of airplanes already starting inbound toward Lakeland Airport. I’m headed the opposite direction in a new Socata Trinidad GT. It’s Socata’s 20th anniversary version of its retractable single. The Trinidad GT is a highly-modified, retractable variation on the earlier Aerospatiale Rallye singles, the 150, 180 and 235. Certainly one of the TB-20’s primary attractions is its big cabin. From the beginning, Aerospatiale concentrated on designing an airplane around an unusually roomy and comfortable cockpit.
The company started with a wide interior, 50 inches across at the elbows. The Trinidad’s large cockpit allows the use of a center console that houses most of the engine, fuel, flap, trim as well as electrical controls.
Next, Socata applied automotive interior-design techniques, fitting seats that look more appropriate to a BMW or Audi, plush, smoothly contoured, multi-adjustable bucket seats that support in all the right places.
The panel is conventionally split into three segments: flight instruments on the left, radios on the center and power instruments on the right. The Trinidad incorporates maintenance features that should make mechanics and avionics technicians cheer. Left and right instrument panels hinge at bottom front and swing down to allow ready access to the gauges. Similarly, there is a trio of panels atop the cowling and just aft of the firewall that provide access to avionics.
One of the Trinidad’s signature design characteristics is its gull-wing doors. They’re hinged at the roof and swing up and out for entrance and egress to front or rear seats. Socata’s gull-wing entryways are built tough, they look great, and they open up a huge entryway to either row of seats.
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