EADS Socata last week launched a marketing blitz for the new six-seat TBM850 turboprop, seeking both to defend its niche customer base from poaching by very-light jets (VLJs) and to open the way to the special mission aircraft market.

TBM 850

The TBM850, a more powerful version of the 15-year-old TBM700 family (Flight International, 6-12 December), has gained certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency, and approval by the US Federal Aviation Administration is expected soon, says Stéphane Mayer, EADS Socata chairman and chief executive. The faster TBM850, sporting an uprated Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66D powerplant, enters service next year as a new breed of VLJs arrives in the marketplace.

EADS Socata concedes the VLJs’ advantage in pure speed, but dismisses this as irrelevant to the TBM850’s core market of owner-pilots. A notional VLJ can beat a TBM850 by 7min on a 925km (500nm) flight and by 11min on a 2,220km flight, says Jacques Lordon, EADS Socata vice-president for general aviation, but this margin is only “in the level of noise”.

A more relevant statistic for the owner-pilot market is the TBM850’s dramatically lower direct operating costs, which EADS Socata estimates to be 50% less on both 925km and 2,220km legs, says Lordon. Also, the VLJs are generally optimised for short air taxi hops of 400-550km, whereas for the owner-pilot market, most flights exceed 925km, he says.

Another area of keen interest for EADS Socata is breaking into the special mission aircraft market with the TBM850. Specifically, it is seeking to market the turboprop for homeland security surveillance flights using mission packages designed by other EADS units and aeromedical flights with a one-litter configuration.


Source: Flight International