Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let's Go To Jamaica, Mon!

The TBMOPA demonstrates the real value of type clubs

Stewart is holistic in the way that he shares aviation on Jamaica. In addition to the formal flight training, he sets up mentoring programs for kids aged eight through 18, and many of the kids become regulars around the flight school until they're old enough to get a pilot license themselves.

Pelton also got the chance to meet the first man who trained pilots on the island, Mr. Frederick Carl Barnett, a flight instructor who sat with his first student in a Piper Cub in January of 1952. Burnett and his wife Maureen (the first woman pilot to get a commercial ticket in Jamaica) still fly the family Citabria.

But for the TBMOPA type, a club is far more than just an excuse to go to Jamaica for a long weekend. The 500+ members, scattered around the world, thrive on all things TBM. For example the group has a very active online forum ( where members discuss recent icing encounters, equipment overhauls and you name it. The site serves the TBM community well.

TBMOPA also has an annual convention. This last year saw more than 80 airplanes and 400 people converge on The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs. There are numerous safety presentations and seminars from OEMs like Pratt & Whitney. Spouses enjoy a "companion course" that teaches them the basics of the aircraft, like how to use the radios and even land the airplane in an emergency.

"TBM people are generally a pretty good group of people," Walenz said. "Down to earth. My wife and I met another couple and got along so well that we meet every year and fly to Costa Rica together."

But the most important role that any type club can play is in providing streamlined communications with the manufacturer. When a problem arises, the club communicates to the manufacturer, who typically is very interested in learning about the disposition of the fleet.

"We go talk to Socata and get things resolved in a timely manner," Walenz says. "An owner by himself has a lot less pull."

Walenz remembers a time when an unusual number of dead-battery problems were reported by TBMOPA members. Socata immediately went to the California-based battery manufacturer to see if there had been any changes in the manufacturing practices. In fact, there had not. The problem turned out to be that the batteries were just going dead when the aircraft weren't flown for a period of time. Socata suggested the problem could be fixed by merely disconnecting the battery when the aircraft was going to sit for a while.


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