Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Let's Go To Jamaica, Mon!
The TBMOPA demonstrates the real value of type clubs
Eight TBMs sit on the ramp at Ian Fleming International, named after the James Bond author who called Jamaica home. The airport was officially opened for international arrivals in 2010. The first pilot to land there was none other than songster Jimmy Buffet.
"We have 10 aircraft over Cuba right now," said Air Journey president Thierry Pouille, who was tracking the gaggle of aircraft on his iPad. His company arranges trips allowing pilots to fly their own airplanes on aviation adventures all over the world. "They should start arriving in about 15 minutes." The approach into runway 9 requires some skimming over a hilltop, and then full flaps and nose down for a slam-dunk arrival to hit the numbers.
And, like clockwork, the flight of $3 million+ French-made, single-engine turboprops entered an extended base leg before turning final on runway 9 at Jamaica's shiny new Ian Fleming International Airport, named after the British writer who created the James Bond series. The airport had recently undergone a massive makeover in transition from a simple local Jamaican aerodrome to an international destination airport.
"Pilots enjoy coming here as opposed to the busier airports like Kingston and Montego Bay," said airport manager Claude Service. The airport is designed to make Jamaica arrivals a cinch. "Fuel, customs—it's all right here. When people find out about Ian Fleming, they want to try us out," Service continued. Songster and tropical troubadour Jimmy Buffet landed on the new runway before the paint was dry.
The TBMOPA group, flying both original TBM 700s and the newer 850, departed southeast Florida and spent slightly more than two hours en route, turning in typical groundspeeds right at 300 KTAS. If that seems like a whole lot of knots, it should; the Pratt & Whitney-powered TBM is the fastest of all the single-engine turboprops.
"The TBM is all about speed," says owner and pilot Butch Stevens. He migrated from a career in NASCAR to flying the big turbine more than a dozen years ago. As he had done in his previous life, Stevens immediately set out to get more speed out of his airplane. He removed the radar pod (gained nine knots), and had his engine race-car-tuned on a dynamometer. His TBM 700 is now as fast, if not faster, than a new TBM 850, despite the latter having a 150 horsepower advantage.
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