French operator Voldirect has added another TBM 850 to its Rennes-based fleet. The company was one of the first in Europe to be approved for commercial operations using a single engine turboprop in 2013, and CEO Frederic Caussarieu is looking to capitalise further. “We were already operating one TBM and one PC-12 around France,” he comments. “We have been approached by individuals and companies who have found interest in the AOC that we have and who are willing to collaborate with us on this type of product.
“We have been in touch with several entrepreneurs, one in particular in Lyon. He is interested in trying the TBM but is not a pilot. He is looking to use the AOC to achieve more than he could achieve by himself. So he is using it half for himself and half for external customers. We were in contact and drew up a contract for us to manage the aircraft and fly on his behalf. He was interested in the TBM 850 because it is a fast, efficient, inexpensive machine to operate. He wanted to be helped by people that are experts on this aircraft in terms of operations, and also who could sell the flight hours outside of his own usage, so that the plane would be optimised. Overall this is a similar model to what we were already doing for our customers in western France.”
Further expansion is afoot and negotiations with other clients are under way. Caussarieu hopes that this is only the beginning of the story. He is not ruling out TBM's more modern 910 and 930 variants but says that the company's latest addition was determined by price: “The customer's budget wasn't compatible with the 910 or the 930,” he continues. “The 850 we purchased is only three years old and had only flown 300 hours so it was like new. Having an aircraft that was less expensive but still close to new in terms of hours was a good deal.
“We hope that one day we can make a move to the 910 or 930 but we will go step by step.”
The market has been performing well for Voldirect and the company is flying much more this year than last. “There is good traction in the market at the moment for us,” he says. “Our customers are really happy because we are saving them a lot of time.
“Everybody really believes that the TBM was a good choice. We are also happy with our PC12-NG under AOC which is an excellent complement to the TBM. The TBM is well designed for missions carrying between one and three people, and the PC12 for five to eight.
“I have two other clients I am talking to at the moment and we are in the final phase of negotiations. Before the summer I should have more good news to announce, but it is not yet finalised.”