Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Speedier And Sportier
TBM’s iconic turboprop undergoes a major makeover
With a range of more than 1,700 nm and a top speed of 330 knots—putting Aspen, the Hudson Bay and Bogota all within our reach from SGJ—a flight to Palatka in the TBM 900, the new, improved member of Daher-Socata's TBM single-engine turboprop family, might seem a wasted opportunity. But we were focused on the everyday business, rather than the glamorous pleasure side, of the TBM's mission capabilities. Introduced to North America barely a week before, this TBM had a full schedule of commitments and places it had to be—doubtless like the busy buyers of these airplanes. No time for the magical getaway an airplane like this makes possible. We weren't exactly going directly to Palatka, either.
TBM 900's American debut took place at Fantasy of Flight, Kermit Weeks' aviation museum cum theme park outside of Lakeland, an appropriate venue given the fantasies TBMs have sparked among pilots over the years. They've been considered the high-end luxury sports cars of the single-turboprop world since the introduction of the TBM 700 in 1990. The TBM 850, introduced in 2006, continued the tradition, but downplayed the sportiness of the brand for a slightly more businesslike demeanor. With the TBM 900, Daher-Socata has not only upgraded some 25% of the aircraft's systems and improved its performance, but also reclaimed the TBM's sports car mystique.
Daher-Socata has upgraded some 25% of the aircraft's systems, improved its performance and reclaimed the TBM's sports car mystique.The 900's most obvious exterior changes from legacy TBMs—the five-blade prop and winglets—are as eye-grabbing as they are functional. "We wanted the aesthetics to look good," Philippe de Segovia, Daher-Socata's director of marketing, said during the walkaround on the ramp at SGJ, pointing out the winglets as an example. "We developed some winglets that were efficient, but we didn't like the way they looked," so the company continued development until they had a set whose appearance matched their performance. Up front, the predatory five-blade Hartzell composite prop drives air into the redesigned air inlet, acting like a turbocharger.
|The composite five-blade Hartzell prop boosts performance—and appearance.|
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