Single-engine turboprops are becoming the rage these days, if you can call a half-dozen models a “rage.” The Malibu JetProp’s mod transforms standard Piper Malibus and Mirages into fire-breathing turbines, and the single-turbine Epic LT will be available as both a homebuilt and a production airplane with a PT6A rated for 1,200 shp.
The very first of the luxury single-engine propjets was EADS Socata’s TBM 700, introduced in 1991. Though the French aircraft would be followed by the Pilatus PC-12 and the more recent Piper Meridian, Czech Ae 270 Ibis and Extra 500, Socata’s single-engine entry has remained the preeminent turbine single among corporate airplanes.
The follow-on to the TBM 700 is the TBM 850, introduced two years ago. As the model designation implies, the most significant improvement was an increase in the flat rating from 700 to 850 shp. The extra power is accessible in cruise and translates directly to a 15- to 20-knot speed improvement at altitude, especially in hot and high conditions.
|The state-of-the-art Garmin G1000/ |
GFC 700 flight deck consists of two 10.4-inch PFDs and one 15-inch MFD.
To call the new airplane’s reception spectacular is an understatement. EADS Socata has sold 150 of the type in just over two years, most of them here in the States. Now, in an attempt to make its best seller even more popular, Socata has taken another step in adapting its single-engine turboprop to the coming age of VLJs.
In keeping with the industry’s trend toward flat-panel-display avionics, the company has fitted the new TBM 850 with Garmin’s G1000/GFC 700 flight deck. In the case of the newest TBM, the Garmin system consists of one 15-inch MFD in the center panel and twin 10.4-inch PFDs. All engine information is seamlessly displayed on the large MFD, including output from two of practically everything: dual airborne heading-attitude reference systems (AHARS), digital audio controllers, air data computers, magnetometers and NAV/COM/GPS units. Additionally, the Garmin system incorporates weather radar, the GFC 700 automatic flight control system, terrain avoidance, TCAS and a Chart View feature. In short, the TBM 850 has virtually every capability normally consigned to airliners.
Yes, before you ask, if you haven’t flown flat-panel before, it will take some time to get your brain up to speed on the avionics, but it’s far simpler if you’re basically familiar with Garmin’s 430/530 system. Most operating functions work roughly the same. If you’ve flown flat-panel before, you’ll quickly become comfortable with the TBM 850’s G1000 setup. If you haven’t, there will be a transition period, but the system is fairly intuitive, and Socata will train new buyers to proficiency. (One fringe benefit of the G1000 system is that pilots who fly a variety of airplanes may be more comfortable transitioning from one type to another.)
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