French airframer Daher-Socata has turned up the heat in the single-engined turboprop market with the unveiling of its TBM 900. First deliveries of the high-speed aircraft – the latest evolution of the 25-year-old TBM design – will be made to three customers in the USA and Europe on 20 March.
The TBM 900 replaces the TBM 850, which was introduced in 2006 as a revamped and re-engined version of the original TBM 700 series.Daher-Socata airplane business unit senior vice-president Nicolas Chabbert says it has delivered 662 TBMs in total – 324 700s and 338 850s.
He says the company had been looking to improve the 850 prior to its acquisition in 2009 by French aerostructures manufacturer Daher. “Our new owner was committed from the start to being an aircraft manufacturer and wanted to invest in the programme,” Chabbert says.
Development of the TBM 900 has been kept firmly under wraps, however. Flight testing of the technology for the new variant began in late 2010 from its Tarbes headquarters using a modified TBM 700 test aircraft. The second and third test aircraft were manufactured from scratch, however. In total the trio have flown 215h, culminating in US and European certification in December 2014.
“We started work on the programme during one of the worst [economic] periods in aviation history,” Chabbert says. “You invest during difficult times and create value for that product later on,” he says.The $3.7 million TBM 900 retains considerable commonality with its predecessor, including the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66D powerplant. However, it offers improved efficiency and performance thanks to aerodynamic modifications including winglets, a vertical tail-fin strake and a new tail cone.Top cruise speed is increased by 10kt (19km/h) to 330kt at 28,000ft (8,530m) and maximum range is extended by more than 300nm (560km) to 1,730nm thanks to a reduction in fuel consumption to 140 litres per hour.Single-control throttle operation and a new torque limiter enable the use of full power – 850hp (634kW) – at take-off, reducing ground roll even in hot-and-high conditions and improving the climb rate to reach the 31,000ft ceiling in 18min 45s.
The TBM 900 has a new five-blade composite propeller and redesigned spinner. It has also undergone a nose-to-firewall redesign to improve engine airflow circulation. The cockpit gets a new control yoke and centre pedestal. The display panel has been redesigned for increased visibility and interaction with secondary system controls.Chabbert acknowledges the turboprop sector has been hit by the downturn.
Annual deliveries of the TBM 850 fell from a peak of 60 aircraft in 2008 to 36 the following year. “The market is shifting now. Last year we delivered 40 aircraft and we have 40 orders already for the TBM 900,” he says.
Demand for the aircraft is expected to come from existing TBM owners, operators of other single-engined turboprop models, high-performance piston twins and singles, and very light and entry level jets such as the Eclipse 500/550 and Cessna Citation Mustang.