Flight level 280 in a TBM 850 was just perfect for us coming out of Peachtree in Georgia, headed down to cozy North Perry Airport near Fort Lauderdale in south Florida. On a really long trip we could have climbed up to FL 310, lost a few knots, saved a few gallons per hour and been perfectly happy. But the airplane we were flying, while RVSM-ready, wasn’t yet RVSM-approved. On that trip, it didn’t matter. We were happy with the few extra knots we got down at 280.
The airplane we were flying was a very special TBM 850 built to commemorate a milestone the likes of which none of us has seen before, the 100th anniversary of an airplane manufacturer.
Our trip out of Atlanta was a typical trip for the 850, but then again, there aren’t many that aren’t typical.
I flew into Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International from my home base of Austin, Texas, on Delta, and got a lift over slow, rainy Atlanta highways up to Daher-Socata’s sales office at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK), where the TBM awaited. The weather was cruddy, about 400 overcast with light rain, but I knew from my airline trip into town a little earlier that the ride was decent and the tops weren’t very high, maybe around 15,000 feet. In this case, I was able to provide my own pirep.
The 100th anniversary TBM — its N-number is 1911Y; get it? — is a gorgeous airplane, with a special paint scheme, gold-plated air vents, creamy leather upholstery and commemorative placards. I tried to think of what else the company could have done to distinguish it. There’s not much, really. Just about every TBM comes out of the factory loaded, with air conditioning, the Garmin G1000 avionics system with GFC 700 autopilot and sumptuous interior. There aren’t even that many options, and the best feature is standard: 320 knots.
The airplane gets its letter-designation from a combination of the company’s home base of Tarbes, France, and the “M” standing, as improbable as it sounds, for “Mooney,” which was French-owned for a time and which participated in the design of the TBM. Plans were to produce the airplane in Texas, but because of a combination of corporate drama and a market downturn, that never happened.
Instead, every TBM is built in Tarbes and is made ready to deliver with paint, interior and systems before being flown to the United States via the North Atlantic route: Scotland; Iceland; Greenland (usually); Goose Bay, Newfoundland; Bangor, Maine; and then down to North Perry. Because of the 850’s impressive range, no ferry tanks are required to make the trip.