Julian Moxon/TARBES

Socata has launched its TB Generation Two (TB GT) range of light aircraft with a major US order for 79 aircraft. The deal, signed with recently appointed West Coast distributor New Avex, includes up to 10 TBM700 single-engined turboprops.

The Aerospatiale Matra general aviation subsidiary has also sold six TB 200GTs to Portugal's Aeronautical Training Academy of Europe. Options for six more, plus four TB20 GTs have been agreed.

Demand is "increasing steadily" says Socata, which is to increase production of the TBGT series from 10 a month to 15, and that of the TBM700 from three to four a month. Deliveries last year stood at 40 TBs and 21 TBM700s, with the company projecting deliveries of 72 TB GTs and 28 TBM700s this year. Socata is planning a 2,000m² (21,500ft²) extension to its production facility at Tarbes to cope with demand. The TBM700 received US Part 135 certification last year, allowing single-pilot instrument flight rules operations with paying passengers (the approval was conditional on installation of a passenger emergency oxygen system). Efforts to win European approval continue.

GT improvements are applied to all five aircraft in the TB line-up and centre on a roomier, all-composite cabin, small winglets similar to those on the TBM700, a fillet at the base of the fin and an optional three-bladed Hartzell propeller.

Socata president Stéphane Bernard says new GTs will eventually be offered with the SMA diesel engine, under development. In an echo from the company's heritage as Morane Saulnier, diesel-powered aircraft are to be given an "MS" suffix instead of "GT", he says. SMA sales and marketing vice-president Luc Pelon says European certification of the 175kW (235hp) diesel engine is expected by the end of the year, with US Federal Aviation Administration approval following "around six months later".

The Tangara light-twin programme is effectively "frozen", says the company. "We're looking for an investment partner to share the high costs of development," it says. Bernard denies Socata is to be spun off from Aerospatiale Matra.

Source: Flight International