Now, the TBM has the reputation for being a bit of a tight fit, which is entirely undeserved. The electrically operated door is huge, and the cabin is very comfortable. The rear occupants, who sit in a club seating arrangement, have plenty of room to sit facing each other without their knees coming close. (Intertwining knees is the way it’s done on more than one club-seating airplane.) The atmosphere, thanks to lots of glass, is airy, and with the introduction of the 850, there was another big cabin improvement — dual zone heating and cooling, which keeps both pilots and passengers happy.
One gripe that is at least somewhat deserved is that it’s a tight fit between the seats for the pilot to thread his way up front after getting in through the airstair door. Daher-Socata answers this shortcoming with one option that is popular with charter operators: the crew door, a forward-of-the-wing portal that allows the crew to get to their places without disturbing the passengers. It’s a $90,000 option that adds around 45 pounds to the weight of the airplane while detracting only very slightly from outside visibility. The airplane I flew did not have the crew door. If I were ordering the airplane, it would be a tough call. It’s not a cheap option, but it gives the pilot and front-seat occupant a great way to get out of the airplane in an emergency, and it does keep the cabin and cockpit separate.
The biggest news on the TBM, and it’s not all that recent, is the Garmin G1000 panel, which has been around for a couple of years now. At the time of the flat-panel makeover, Daher-Socata was reluctant to join the LCD crowd, but once it did, the move made nothing but sense. Daher-Socata vice president of sales Michel Adam de Villiers told me that, in all the time that the company has been ferrying G1000 airplanes across the North Atlantic, there hasn’t been a single avionics squawk. Before Garmin, it was a regular occurrence. This is, of course, just one in a long list of advantages that promote seeing the glass completely full.
The G1000 also saves a lot of weight, around 120 pounds. That’s a nearly grown kid, a giant dog or a couple of duffels filled with toys. Plus, the flat panels give you room to take that extra weight, since the greatly reduced depth of the displays opens up the entire forward baggage space, an area that previously was lost to the depth of the EFIS boxes. You can fit a couple of modest-size golf bags in the compartment, I’m told.
Moreover, G1000 cleans up an admittedly well-designed panel even more, allowing for a much cleaner look and, more importantly, greatly enhanced ease of use. Every switch, knob and lever is grouped into sensible clusters, some of them on a smartly designed overhead panel. To free up space in the cockpit, the quick-donning masks are located on the side-walls just behind the pilot and copilot seats.
You’d think that one G1000 installation would be pretty much the same as any other G1000 installation, but you’d be wrong. The location and size of the displays, controllers and keypads are set up differently from model to model because of panel restrictions and the need for additional components, especially the keypad, a nice addition to any installation. In the TBM there is a 15-inch center mounted MFD and dual PFDs. The huge MFD not only allows the pilot to see a lot of information, but it also allows for a big map along with engine instruments. On the TBM 850, as is the case on many other Garmin-equipped turbine airplanes, the crew alerting system (CAS) is handled through the displays, so you don’t have to monitor a Christmas tree full of warning lights. There’s a master warning light and a master caution, and that’s it. Everything else on the CAS resides in the displays.
850 versus 700
The introduction of the TBM 850 in 2006 took an arguably great airplane and made it even better, thanks to the addition of power, which always seems to do nice things for airplanes. The additional oomph came with the change to the Pratt & Whitney PT-6A-66D, which is limited to 700 shp for takeoff and landing but which can be asked to produce up to 850 shp for cruise. The result is an airplane that went from around 285 knots true to around 320 knots true, a huge increase in speed, while keeping the range about the same, at around 1,500 nm, as in previous TBMs, even though it burns a couple more gallons per hour than the 700. In case you were wondering, Daher-Socata uses gallons per hour for the 850, instead of pounds per hour, which is the more typical unit of measure in turbine airplanes.