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The DAHER TBM

The DAHER TBM

The Daher TBM is one of the greatest planes ever built – a mix of style, strength and elegance that is as beautiful as a supermodel and as powerful as a steroid-fuelled pro wrestler. For nearly 30 years, the TBM has been the measuring stick by which all other light aircraft have been judged, and that reputation has been built on the hard work of its designers at French company Daher.

Daher boasts more than century of experience in innovation and production, and is the world’s oldest aircraft manufacturer still in operation. Founded in 1863 as a shipping company, the firm is now one of the world’s leading developers of aerospace and advanced technologies. If they’ve designed it, you know it’s good.

Tracing its origins to the pioneering Morane-Saulnier aviation company, and more recently the well-known SOCATA, Daher is responsible for many of the most important milestones in aviation history.

Morane-Saulnier and SOCATA were behind the first Mediterranean air-crossing. On September 23rd 1913, Frenchman Roland Garros flew from a beach near Cannes to Tunisia in a Morane-Saulnier monoplane. The 750 kilometre flight lasted 7 hours and 53 minutes and, at the time, was the longest flight ever made over water. SOCATA went on to put together the world’s first business jet, the MS 760 Paris, in 1954. The TBM 700 became the first pressurised single-engine turboprop to be certified in 1990 which directly paved the way for today’s Daher TBM 900.

From the early stages of its conception, the TBM was designed to deliver fast travel at an affordable cost. It emerged when twin pistons were too expensive to operate, yet pilots sought an aircraft with the same high level of safety and comfort of the light jets. The result was a very fast turboprop – an all-in-one with even more competitive features.

But how did the TBM come to be the game-changing aircraft it is today? Well, the story starts in Tarbes, France, at the foot of the Pyrénées, back in the 1980s. Let’s travel back in time and see how it all went down.

 

HERE IT COMES!

Aircraft manufacturers in the early 1980s were searching for new ways to power their aircraft. The piston-powered twin engine planes that had been the backbone of business aviation were too slow, while anything petrol powered was outdated. Twin-engine turboprops and jets, however, were still too expensive. Manufacturers from around the globe tackled the problem with various levels of success, but it wasn’t until SOCATA (now known as Daher, and then mostly known for building training and touring aircraft), joined forces with the Texas-based Mooney Aircraft, that the solution was found.

In 1986, they proposed an aircraft that would be like the Concorde but designed for general aviation: a plane with a pressurised cabin able to carry seven people at cruising speed of 571km/h at an altitude of 30,000 ft., over distances of approximately 2778km – performances comparable to those of a warbird. Critics said it couldn’t be done, but nothing would deter the brainboxes at SOCATA from completing their mission.

Originally, the project was inspired by the Mooney 301, a pressurised six-seater that had never made it past the prototype stage, but studies concluded that work had to be started anew. Through the help of the Aerospatiale research department at Toulouse, the wing was designed based on computer designs of the twin engine turboprop ATR 72, which was being developed simultaneously. The outcome was a plane weighing approximately 1633kg, with a 12m wingspan, and manufactured to the standard of the most modern techniques used for the Airbus, including metal bonding and the use of composites. They said it couldn’t be made, but it was.

THEYVE DONE IT!

The result was the TBM 700, the first civilian pressurised single engine turboprop plane certificated. It was pretty special.

The 700 was a prop with jet-like performance, but was still within the reach of private pilots. Compared to twin pistons that were considered the backbone of light business aviation, the 700 had plenty going for it – more speed, more comfort, and more precise landing on shorter landing strips when compared to light jets. In other words, it blew everything else out of the water.

Why was it called the TBM? It’s simple, really. The TB is for the French city of Tarbes, and M for Mooney. The figure 700 alluded to the power of its Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop engine, which was at the time the best in its category, already powering thousands of planes worldwide. The program was officially launched at a press conference during the 1987 Paris Air Show when a model of the fuselage was shown to the public, and from then on prototype testing events accelerated.

Less than a year later, the first prototype of the TBM 700 made its official roll-out at Tarbes. One month later, on July 14, it thrust its nearly three tonnes into the air, while astonished crowds watched from the ground. While it was a roaring success, the designers still wanted to make improvements, replacing the PT6A-40 turboprop with the PT6A-64 version, developing a thermodynamic power of 1,580 hp and deterred at 700 hp. Something very, very special was happening.

The second TBM 700 prototype flew on August 3, 1989, and the third on October 11. French certification was obtained on 31st January 1990.The de-icing equipment and the autopilot took six more months to certify, but were worth the wait, leading to a truly all-weather plane that could tackle any conditions.

With all certifications reached and performances exceeding expectations, deliveries could start. The keys of the first TBM were handed over to its owner in October 1990, during the annual convention of the National Business Aviation Association in New Orleans. From there, things went absolutely bananas, as the TBM changed general aviation forever. Even now, more than 25 years after its initial certification and the completion of over 700 planes of its type, the TBM still ranks first in its category, for one reason – it’s really bloody good.

 

EVERYBODY LOVES THE TBM

SOCATA rapidly expanded to meet the unprecedented demand for their new baby, building extensive new facilities in which to put together the TBM. Orders from private suppliers rolled in, and the plane proved to be so good that the French Air Force chose the TBM 700 as the replacement for their ageing MS 760 Paris line.

Since then, the TBM has seen almost constant evolution, remaining at the cutting edge of technological advancement. The cockpits have been upgraded to contain every type of instrument you can think of, and every other facet has been changed or improved.

The introduction of the TBM 700B was the beginning of a period of significant commercial success in the US. With the addition of a gaseous backup oxygen system with quick donning masks, the service ceiling of the TBM 700B was raised to 31,000 ft.

In 2003, the TBM 700C2 was certified with an increased max take-off weight of 3354kg, allowing payload of 392kg with full fuel. This modification included a reinforced airframe, reinforced landing gear, a new interior and new rear external luggage compartment.

2006 saw the introduction of the TBM 850, powered by the new Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66D powerplant ,producing 1825hp, which gave the TBM 850 a jet-like performance with turboprop efficiency and economical operation. The TBM 850 was further upgraded in 2008 with the G1000 all-glass integrated cockpit panel.

In 2010 Daher started researching to further improve the TBM based on requests from its customer base. This has resulted in today’s Daher TBM 900, which continues to own the skies through a mixture of cutting edge-technology and loving design. It looks great, is mechanically sound, and flying it is still within the reach of private pilots.

Earlier this year, the name of the company was changed from DAHER-SOCATA to simply Daher, to bring it in line with the name of its parent company. There’s a new name, but the same commitment to excellence in aviation.

 

THE FUTURE IS HERE

Nearly three decades of evolution has brought us the TBM 900, one of the best planes on the market today. The current incarnation of the TBM offers even greater speed, range and efficiency than previous models, and also has improved short field capabilities and, as a result, can be used on just about any general aviation runway.

The 900 can climb to its certified service ceiling of 31,000 ft in a tad over 17 minutes when departing from sea level at its maximum takeoff weight, so you won’t waste any time getting up amongst the clouds.

This performance exceeds that of most turboprops and some light jets, allowing the pilot to climb faster above weather and to fly more trips at higher, more fuel efficient altitudes, meaning every flight is cheaper.

Maximum cruise speed is 611km/h, which is damned fast, and it can maintain a lot of that speed even at maximum altitude. Another important feature of the 900 is excellent performance at ‘high-teens’ altitudes, offering cruise speeds exceeding 537km/h. This flexibility allows the pilot a range of options to maximise ground speed in cases of strong headwind at higher altitudes or for shorter trips.

The 900 also has great range, being able to cover 3204 kms with four adults on board. Alright, you can probably cut that distance down a bit if you’re flying with Roseanne Arnold, Rebel Wilson and Matt Preston, but it’s still really impressive.

But the TBM 900 isn’t all about the facts and figures, because its true beauty comes in the experience it provides. And in that regard, the 900 remains untouched.

 

BON VOYAGE!

TBMs have worked with the French military since 1992. Their fleet of 27 TBM 700s have recently been modernised with G1000 avionics integration, and have accumulated over 200,000 hours of liaison and training flights for the French Air Force, French Army Aviation and the DGA, France’s Ministry Of Defense Procurement Agency.

It’s been a successful partnership that has shown just how well designed and built the Daher planes are. Captain Agnus, a former commanding officer and TBM pilot of the French Army Aviation, describes one of those missions.

“A NATO exercise takes place in Norway, as every year. Our plane is readied by the mechanics who make sure that our covering lot is complete and that we do not forget the de-icing kit as the weather can be very cold on the 70th parallel in March.

“We take-off at 7am for our first leg, which brings us to Etain AB in the Meuse Department. The spare parts are loaded soon after our landing, fuel tanks are topped up and our passengers come on board. We take-off thirty minutes later. Flight level 280, everything is OK; the west wind is of no consequence on our schedule and the sky is clear and clean at such an altitude. The ground remains invisible under the thick layer of clouds as we fly over Germany and Denmark. We stop for refuelling at Oslo and thereafter can catch a glimpse of some fjords between the clouds.

“There, the landing strip is barely wide enough. As we have run out of adrenaline with our landing gear and flaps up, we have to face a storm and its gusts of wind. We are tightly strapped and hence can keep our plane under control. Turbulences are harsh. The winds come blowing ahead at 25-30 knots together with snow flurries. We’ve got bad times ahead, especially with an ice covered landing strip. The runway is in sight.

“We have started our flare-out and our wheels hit the ground soon. A short taxiing brings us to our stand everything is now quiet in the cockpit. It just takes us 5 minutes to cover our thoroughbred. We walk on a 10cm thick layer of snow, heavy flakes keep on falling. It was an enriching mission and the experience gained will be taken down and commented upon for long during fireside chats.”

Watch out, ISIS, the TBM is coming for you!

AROUND THE WORLD IN AN 850

Ever since legendary pilot Jacques Lemaigre du Breuil’s broke all sorts of speed records by flying around the world in 1993, many TBM pilots have circumnavigated the planet in a Daher aircraft. Among them is Steve Walenz, a retired paving contractor from Nebraska, who owns a TBM 850.

Such a massive flight requires a dependable aircraft, and Walenz certainly found that. Along with his wife and son, he made it right around the globe and safely back home in time to watch Family Feud before dinner.

“In 2009, we made a 40-day trip around South America. On this trip the most spectacular stopovers were Guardia Marina Samarth Airport in Chile, near the famous Cape Horn and landing at Cuzco, Peru, near the old Incan capital. This was a challenging landing as the runway is 10,800 ft. high. It made me realise I have an aircraft whose performance allowed me handle operating conditions. Flying around the world in 2010 was the trip of a lifetime and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I visited the air museum on Malta, rode an elephant and a Bengal tiger in Thailand, and kissed a cobra in Marrakesh.”

Whatever floats your boat, mate!

 

APOCALYPSE WOW!

Five-time Academy Award winner Francis Ford Coppola is the genius behind classic movies such as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, but the most inspired decision he’s ever made was to buy himself a TBM a few decades ago.

He needed a reliable aircraft to fly him around the world not only for movie shoots, but also to take care of his vast business empire, which includes wineries and a range of luxury resorts.

“My son Roman brought my attention to the TBM. What attracted me was the level of excellence that French aviation products are known for, the beauty of the design, and the fact that it was the fastest single-engine plane in existence,” the legendary director explains. “I use the plane for my travel in California, especially from the Napa Valley to Los Angeles – a mission it handles with ease.”

“We began to think of how it could look and arrived at the notion that it could be all-polished aluminium with a full black leather interior. At first the aircraft manufacturer team explained reasons why this might not be possible, but they tried to find a way, and eventually they succeeded.”

Sounds like he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse!

HISTORY OF THE TBM

1990

TBM 700

Powerplant ? PT6A?64 700 shp

Original split door

MTOW: 2,984 kg

Max. cruise speed: 555km/h

Max Range: 2870km

 

1992

TBM 700A

Instrument system (EFIS)

Max. cruise speed: 555km/h

Max Range: 2870km

 

1999

TBM 700B

Large cargo door

Optional pilot entry door

MTOW: 2,984 kg

Max. cruise speed: 555km/h

Max Range: 2870km

 

2003

TBM 700C2

Increased Maximum Takeoff Weight

MTOW: 3,335 kg

Max. cruise speed: 555km/h

Max Range: 2898km

 

2005

TBM 850 Legacy

New powerplant PT6A?66D engine – 850 shp

Max. cruise speed: 593km/h

Max Range: 2815km

 

2008

TBM 850

New all?glass integrated flight deck G1000

Max. cruise speed: 593km/h

Max Range: 2935km

 

2012

TBM 850 Elite

Quick?change capability

Max. cruise speed: 593km/h

Max Range: 2935km

 

2014

Daher TBM 900

Winglets, carbon-fiber redesigned cowlings,

5-blade composite propeller,

single throttle and 20 other improvements

Max. cruise speed: 611km/h

Max Range: 3204

 

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