TBM 700

I first heard about this airplane when my former boss, Philippe Kahn got one almost ten years ago when they first came out. Why am I interested in it? Because it is the logical conclusion of one possible train of flying proficiency I could follow. Ultimately, every pilot would like to enter the realm of pressurized kerosine burners of one kind of another. Turbine aircraft, whether prop or jet, are inherently much more reliable than reciprocating piston planes. The idea of a single engine aircraft is also much more attractive to many pilots. While the layman may feel that two engines are better than one from a safety standpoint, the statistics are unclear about this. An accident is twice as likely to be fatal in a twin as a single, principally because twins are dramatically more difficult to fly with one engine out. Because of those difficulties, its very difficult to get insurance to fly a twin until you are a 1,000 hour pilot. As I write this, I do not yet have a pilot's license at all, so I can contemplate being able to fly a plane like the TBM 700 from an insurance standpoint much sooner than any twin. Pressurization lets you fly above the rough weather, or at least deviate around it without having to go too far out of your way. It also makes turbine aircraft dramatically more efficient. Flying through thinner air means faster speeds and lower fuel consumption.

The TBM 700 is a distant relative of the Socata Trinidad, another favorite of mine. At least they are both built by the same company. It's most logical competitors would be the Piper Meridian and the Pilatus PC-12. The TBM 700 sits midway between these two turboprop singles. The Piper carries much less useful load. With all seats full, it can only fly about 30 minutes. The Pilatus is much larger, and more costly. It too, is a great airplane, but the TBM 700 seems like the best "fit" in this lineup to me. My ex-boss, Philippe Kahn, feels these planes are exceptional buys because the French government heavily subsidized Aerospatiale/Socata during development of the aircraft. In essence, he feels a lot more money goes into creating these birds than other planes of a similar cost. Therefore, you're getting a bargain. He may be right.

The aircraft for sale listings typically show 6 or 8 TBM 700's for sale at any point in time, ranging from $1.4 million for the oldest planes (1992, 2000 hours, really not very old at all for an airplane) to about $2.5 million for a brand new one. These planes will travel at 300 knots at 30,000 feet for a range of up to 1,500 nautical miles. They seat 4 passengers in club seating in the rear, plus the pilot and copilot in front. Two couples could take a trip with ease in this plane, or a single family with husband pilot (like me!) and perhaps a pro in the right seat for backup. Based on my calculations, this plane will take me from my Northern California home base as far away as New Orleans or Chicago and still get there ahead of a commercial jet. If you're wondering how that can be (jets fly faster, don't they?), read my article on General Aviation Efficiency versus the airlines. In the wake of the 911 disaster, I suspect the numbers are skewed even further in favor of flying a private plane.

Beautiful in flight...

State-of-the-art panel...

Cushy ride for the passengers...

The air stair beckons...

 
All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.