As with the Pilatus PC-12, Jetfly Aviation SA probably has Europe's largest fleet of TBM aircraft, these being a mixture of 700 and 850 variants. EBAN's readership records reveal owners in seventeen countries, and the greatest concentration in the UK. However, the British register hosts only one TBM700 and two TBM850s the remaining dozen or so of the UK contingent being US registered.
Reporting on his experience with his TBM700B, Swiss owner Antal Rajnak is very satisfied with the available maintenance support. Perhaps this is only to be expected, however, as his aircraft is maintained by the factory in Tarbes, to which he awards high scores for "excellent competency and performance beyond my expectations".
He is equally very satisfied with the TBM700's dispatch reliability, having had no flights cancelled for technical reasons in more than two years of operations. "The aircraft is a very capable, top equipped aircraft coping well with all kinds of operational challenges (weather, range, short runways etc)," he says. Its best aspects are its outstanding performance and flying qualities, the build quality and the support provided by the manufacturer. Its worst, he says, is the performance loss when using the Inertial Separator at altitude.
"RVSM is the only option I do not have," says Rajnak. "Most aircraft are delivered with all options in place from the factory, making the list of desirable upgrades very short."
Also sending his aircraft to Tarbes for maintenance, but rather less happy about it, is Brian Strickland of Arrow Flying Associates, Ltd. The UK "badly needs a reliable maintenance base," he says.
He is satisfied with his TBM700C2's dispatch reliability, although the aircraft has suffered a long history of avionics problems which, he believes, probably stem from the fact that there are so many manufacturers' parts involved. "This is probably not an issue now they have gone over to the G1000."
Its value-for-money draws criticism too. "It is made in France which has high social charges for employees, which are passed on in manufacturing costs," he says.
But Strickland reports that the best thing about the TBM700 is that it is rugged and forgiving. "It has a Vne (velocity never exceed) of 266 kts as opposed to the Piper Meridian or Jetprop which is 170. You can load it up and go anywhere if the runways are long enough."
Some buyers of new TBM850s are reported to have sold their delivery positions or postponed orders due to the current financial climate, although Daher-Socata denies receiving any cancellations. So in March this year the manufacturer launched a new programme designed to help with affordability, dubbed 'Fly and Share your TBM' or 'FAST'.
The joint ownership scheme is the first of its kind offered by Socata, and has been trialled by US dealers earlier this year. "It has proved a success so we have decided to open the scheme worldwide through our international distributor and support network," the company says.
FAST is a four-year agree- ment ideally suited for two shareholders on a one-third/ two-thirds co-ownership basis, but could accommodate up to three shareholders per aircraft. A minimum 100 days of exclusive use is provided each year on an unlimited flight hour basis.
TBM's distributors draw up contracts and can offer customers aircraft management, maintenance, online flight scheduling and aircraft tracking, training, hangarage, concierge services and insurance. Shareholders are responsible for their portion of the initial aircraft purchase, for which non recourse financing is available with a qualified minimum down payment.
A monthly programme fee covers management and administrative services, and a fee per flight hour is assessed to cover all scheduled and unscheduled maintenance items.
"In this current economy, the TBM 850 is the best choice and the right alternative to business transportation needs of medium and small companies, and Daher-Socata is totally committed to backing this aircraft with the best customer service possible," says Nicolas Chabbert, the senior vice-president of Daher-Socata General Aviation.
"The TBM 850 is the world's fastest single engine turboprop, with a maximum cruising speed of 320 KTAS at 26,000 ft (in ISA conditions). "An 850-shp version of Socata's proven six-seat TBM 700 turboprop business aircraft, the TBM 850 combines the cruising speed and travel times typical of light jets with economical direct operating costs, while offering the range and excellent payload capacity of turboprop aircraft."