The airport at Palatka (28J), a sleepy farming community in Northeast Florida, lies a scant 26 nm from historic St. Augustine’s KSGJ. So the consternation in the briefer’s voice, audible over the speaker phone as he read back our flight plan to 28J, was understandable: “TBM 900 Alpha Zulu—requesting flight level Two Eight Zero?”
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.