Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Turning Airpark Dreams Into Lifestyle Realities

The Daher-Socata TBM 850 Elite

They may have roads and utilities, homes and happy families, but residential airparks are far from your typical American community—unlike, say, a Muncie, Ind., celebrated and studied by social scientists for its averageness.

We were enjoying the enviable differences in the airpark lifestyle during our visit to Big South Fork Airpark (BSFA) in Oneida, Tenn., where we had come to evaluate candidates for Best Residential Airpark Airplane (RAA) honors. Not that BSFA is a typical residential airpark.

Adjacent to the Cumberland Plateau's spectacular Big South Fork National Recreational Area and enjoying through-the-fence access to Scott County Municipal Airport (KSCX), the 450-acre property, now in its first phase of development, is above average in every way.

Its thickly wooded lots, fine Paso Finos at the equestrian facility and the residents' camaraderie help set it apart. Here, amidst natural beauty and among like-minded souls, minutes from one's airplane, is the life many pilots dream of. But most of us are stuck in our own Muncies.

An Ideal RAA
An aircraft that could bridge these two worlds, providing commercial-grade anywhere/anytime capability for business missions, combined with outstanding high/hot and short-field performance for getting in and out of the homeport (most airparks aren't blessed with SCX's 5,500 feet of asphalt) could surely make a claim for the top RAA spot.

The TBM 850 Elite, latest model of Daher-Socata's six-place single-engine turboprop, is on the short list for this job. With a 320-knot maximum cruise speed, range of more than 1,400 nm and a rugged nimbleness suitable for unimproved backcountry airstrips, on paper, the TBM has more than enough performance to meet the challenge. Mike Sarsfield, Socata's Sales and Support representative for the Southeast U.S., agreed to bring a new 850 Elite to BSFA for a field evaluation.

It turns out the TBM is no stranger to residential airpark living. "Just in the Southeast, I've got 10 or 12 TBM owners who live in a residential airpark or have a second home in one," Sarsfield said, as we approached N850XX on the ramp at SCX, the sun burning off the last of the morning's fog.

Mission To Muncie
Sarsfield had arrived the previous evening after a full day of work at his office in Atlanta as isolated thunderstorms began popping up in our area, a warm-up demonstration of the TBM's RAA creds.


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