Tempted by the TBM? Check this out
Kylie says “Do watch the vid” – but for more info on what customers think, I’ll start by proffering a piece I wrote for Arabian Aerospace’s Show Business at the Middle East Business Aviation Show last December.
The contented commuter
For one TBM850 owner travelling to work is pure pleasure. Liz Moscrop meets a man with a (flight) plan
Allow me to lull you into a false sense of security as you prepare to wade your way through an article about the advantages of turboprop over jet aircraft to the owner pilot. Last year Daher Socata sold its first TBM 850 (www.tbm.aero) into the Middle East. It went to a Saudi lawyer, Ziad Al-Sudairy, “who finds it incredibly helpful in his business.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, all that’s true, but let’s face it – makes dull reading. The greater truth is that Ziad’s a pilot and he just loves flying. So the fact the aircraft saves him a heap of time and enables him to get to meetings that suit his personal schedule is a major consideration, but actually secondary once the wheels leave the tarmac.
TBM’s tend to belong to entrepreneurs who are avid aviators. Ziad got his US Federal Aviation Administration private pilot’s licence after he finished his legal studies back in the eighties, but had to stop flying when he returned to his homeland, as there were limited opportunities to pursue his passion. He mourned: “I planned to continue to fly when I finished school, but in the 1980s there was no infrastructure for GA light aircraft – no Avgas, no maintenance and no support, so I couldn’t fly and gave up until a few years ago.”
All that changed in 2007 when the Saudi Aviation Club took wing in Thumama, approximately 60 km north of Riyadh. Ziad picked up where he left off, became glass cockpit proficient and bought himself a Cirrus SR22T. He flew that for a while until he wanted to travel further. He said: “I wanted a faster aircraft with better range. The TBM offered all of that. It is the fastest in its class, and compared to light jets, it offers better range, temperature and operating costs.”
It also provides around 50% more speed and payload over his previous aircraft, and until the launch of its big sister the TBM 900 earlier this year, was the world’s fastest single turboprop aircraft, with a maximum cruising speed of 320 KTAS at Flight Level 260. Don’t tell anyone, but that makes it an awful lot more fun for a skilled private pilot. He continued: “Plus I had the added safety of the TB engine, and the availability of Jet A1, especially in this part of the world. Avgas is not readily available here.”
The new aviation club was a lifeline, too. “It gave me the opportunity to revive my passion, so I got current, did my IFR and started flying again until I built up my hours to get a turbine rating.” Subsequently the TBM has enabled him to travel around Saudi and the Gulf region. He has flown as far as Europe and Switzerland. (Typically TBM pilots like to fly long distances with their aircraft). Ziad enthused: “I recently left home in the morning and got to Zurich before sunset. He added: “This summer I took my family on holiday to Portugal and Belgium.”
He insisted that there was local support for him before buying his aircraft. Daher rose to the occasion and authorised Abu Dhabi Aviation as a regional service centre. He said: “I recently had my 100 hour service there and was very pleased with the standard.”
People flock to his aircraft when he brings her to shows. He explained: “We recently had a fly in at the Saudi Aviation Club. My TBM got lots of attention, even though there was a Learjet there.”
Although his aircraft is on the US ‘N’ register, rather than the Saudi ‘HZ’ ticket, it is easy for him to fly around the Kingdom. He simply applies for an annual license for international airports, and goes through a handling agent for domestic fields. He explained: “Flying is easy in the GCC – airline flights are convenient and readily available.” “But,” he grinned: “I must admit I enjoy flying my own aircraft!”
Of course he does. السماء الزرقاء to him I say.*
More on the TBM
This article first appeared in Show Business, the daily show newspaper that went out at the Middle East Business Aviation show in Dubai last December. I do owe Daher Socata an apology. I visited their wonderful facility in Tarbes towards the end of last year, and am only now adding to my blog.
They’ve got tons of news to shout about. They’ve had their “best year ever in terms of sales contracts for the TBM, and the second best year for deliveries.”
This equates to 51 new TBM 900s in 2014, which represented a 27-percent increase from 2013 for the family of very fast turboprop aircraft.
With an order intake for 64 aircraft in 2014, it was the best year ever in terms of TBM sales volume, and the second best year for the company’s aircraft program since 1990.
The company points out that the used aircraft market has been also active. In total, when adding used aircraft to the new business for TBM 900s, Daher Socata handled some 150 aircraft transactions during the year.
If you want to know the technical – the latest iteration of the superfast turboprop incorporates enhancements that include aerodynamic optimisation, a five-blade composite propeller and redesigned spinner, complete nose-to-firewall redesign for improved engine airflow circulation, enhanced human-machine interface features, a completely revamped electrical system and increased passenger comfort.
The majority of TBM 900s sold in 2014 went to customers in the US and Canadian markets (representing 78 percent), while new business also came from other key aviation regions of the world. South America accounted for 10 percent, mostly in Brazil; Europe was next, with 8 percent of the sales; and Asia-Pacific represented the remaining 4 percent.
There are now some 713 TBMs flying all over the world, accounting for 1.2 million flight hours as of January 15 this year.
The company started in 1863, and Daher is now present in 12 countries across the world. In 2013, the firm generated a turnover of nearly one billion euros, with an order book equivalent to more than three years of turnover. The facility is fantastic with a wonderful family atmosphere. People typically work there for decades – and why not? Located in the Pyrenees for winter skiing, but close enough to the beaches of the south of France to sunbathe most of the year, it offers the best of many worlds.
I had a blast visiting them – got to meet incredibly interesting pilot customers at an (almost) Michelin starred restaurant, and experienced a fun flight back to the UK, where – as you see in the video if you watched it – we danced to Kylie among other chats.
The destination that day was a hangar opening party for MCA Aviation, which had just switched its operations to Bournemouth. Owner Malcolm Craft has long serviced TBMs and was a most generous host. (http://mcaaviation.com)
There are two historic projects I’ll be tracking off the back of this story – one is Malcolm Craft’s restoration of historical aircraft and the other is Daher Socata’s rebuild of the original Morane-Saulnier’s Model A, monoplane, which it is building almost in a shed on its premises (and someone will fly it!). A stark contrast to its latest state of the art development with Airbus on the Airbus Group’s electric E-Fan aircraft. A fascinating company, indeed.