EADS Socata is seeking to widen the market for its TBM 700 single- engined turboprop to bolster sales of the seven-seat high-performance aircraft in the face of growing competition from light jets.

Sales of the TBM are flat, with 35 aircraft expected to be delivered this year, one more than in 2003. Although the French manufacturer received long-awaited European certification of the high-gross-weight TBM 700C2 three months ago, it suggests this will have little impact on sales. "We have already sold around half a dozen C2s in Europe," says Stephane Bernard, Socata's vice- president sales and marketing, "but owners simply placed their aircraft on the US N register, where the version was approved around 18 months ago." The company expects demand to be "fairly high" for retrofit of C1s.

"We are looking at new markets, where we believe the TBM will fit and where we can exploit the knowledge and expertise of other EADS group members, particularly Eurocopter," Bernard adds. The multimission market, notably air ambulance, where Eurocopter has become prominent, is of immediate interest. Medevac interiors specialist Lifeport has designed a system for the TBM, called AeroSled Plus, which it says allows users to obtain maximum use from the cabin space with enough room for one patient, two crew and two medical staff to travel comfortably.

Socata also plans to install a glass cockpit, believed to be the Honeywell Apex system, within the next 12 months.

Source: Flight International