Plane & Pilot
Sunday, August 1, 2004

Socata Trinidad GT


A beautiful little French retractable with a certain je ne sais quoi


socataBy 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.
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The chart suggests an ADF antenna (for those strange folks—like me—who still use ADF) costs about .75 knots, a VOR antenna subtracts .59 knots, a glideslope antenna deducts .32 knots and even the tiny ELT antenna reduces cruise by .16 knots. Additionally, Socata suggests wingtip strobes decrease speed another .43 knots and a rotating beacon subtracts .16 knots. Put them all together, and a full package of IFR antennas and lights on a standard Trinidad will diminish cruise by 4.3 knots. The accuracy of the figures suggests the numbers probably were obtained theoretically (in a wind tunnel) rather than empirically. Granted, there are different types and styles of antennas, and these values wouldn’t necessarily hold true in other airplanes and different speed regimes, but they may be somewhat representative for retractables in the 140- to 180-knot class.

(The late Roy Lopresti, speed guru, former NASA rocket scientist, president of Mooney and all-around good guy, told me he had once stripped a 201 of antennas and recorded 3.5 knots better speed on the totally clean airframe, so Socata’s numbers look about right.)

Gear and flap extension result in minimum pitch disturbance, but they do generate a notable difference in power-off stall speed. With the underwing totally clean, the GT stops flying at a quick 65 knots. In full dirty configuration, gear down and full flaps, stall drops all the way to 54 knots, and the stall itself is a non-event.

Approaches in the Socata Trinidad GT work well at any speed from 80 to 120 knots. The airplane makes a stable instrument platform, happy to drive down the ILS in soft- or hard-IFR conditions with minimum fuss. Excursions are generally easy to correct, and the Trinidad seems to settle easily into that indefinable “groove” that instrument pilots recognize.

Compared to the Aerospatiale Rallye STOL models that featured leading-edge slats and more aggressive flaps, the Socata Trinidad GT doesn’t post spectacular short-field numbers, but the TB-20 does just fine on unobstructed strips that are longer than 2,000 feet. The model’s tough, trailing link gear system absorbs most reasonable impacts and even some unreasonable ones to smooth the most ham-handed touchdowns.

Price is always in the eye of the debtor, but at $419,000 base, the 2004 Trinidad GT is more expensive than either the Cirrus SR-22 or Lancair Columbia 300, and it’s about $30,000 more pricey than a Mooney Ovation 2DX. Remember, however, that the base price buys a well-equipped airplane—a Garmin 430 and 530, 330 transponder with traffic uplink and 340 switching panel, Shadin fuel computer, backup artificial horizon, a Stormscope, a KFC225 flight director and autopilot, a pair of Bose X headsets and virtually everything else you would need for normal IFR conditions. The two biggest options are air conditioning and a TKS anti-ice system.

With the exception of Diamond’s fixed-gear Star and C1, the Socata singles are the only foreign airplanes to succeed in America’s piston general-aviation travel market. France’s premier high-performance retractable Trinidad GT offers an uncommon combination of ingredients that makes the airplane more than competitive with its American counterparts, especially when it comes to comfort.

For more information, contact Socata Aircraft, Inc. at (954) 893-1400 or log on to www.socataaircraft.com.

SPECS: 2004 Socata Trinidad GT-N203AB



Labels: Piston Singles

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