In addition to the extra speed, the 850 also got a weight increase, up to 7,430 pounds maximum ramp weight, an increase of better than 800 pounds over the B-model. (The increase was first added to the C-model.) The additional weight meant that the company needed to get an increase in landing speed, up to 65 knots from 61, which it did without a stick pusher by earning credit for more crashworthy seats and better belts, among other measures. As fuel burns off and the weight comes down over the course of the trip, the stall speed comes down too, of course.
Besides the additional power, there are only very subtle outward differences between the 700 and the 850. The latter, by the way, is officially a 700 too, the 700N. The 850 designation is a marketing name. I guess the company wanted to make it clear that 850 was the superlative horsepower figure. I’d want prospective customers to know that too.
Up at cruise, when you want to “shift” from 700 to 850 hp, you do it in an ingenious way. The additional power is accessed via a detent built right into the flap lever. It is located one notch above the zero flap setting, so you physically can’t have any flaps and increased power. If you haven’t already returned to normal output when you bring in landing flaps, you have to do it then. It’s a fail-safe solution.
Flying High, Flying Fast
Cleared for takeoff by the Peachtree tower, I rolled out to the centerline of Runway 20L, held the brakes, brought in the power to just under 100 percent and let it run. With 700 hp available for takeoff, the 850 is clearly a powerful airplane, and it accelerates briskly but predictably. I rotated at 80 knots, let it accelerate, raised the gear, then flaps and started our climb.
We were in the soup a few seconds later and getting bounced around a bit. Hand-flying the airplane with the flight director, it was clear to me that this was no lightweight — our takeoff weight that day was around 7,000 pounds, more than 400 pounds below our maximum but still a thousand pounds heavier than a fully laden Eclipse jet. The yokes in the TBM give you a great deal of leverage, and the trim, while not lightning-quick, got the job done. Before I knew it, I had
it trimmed up for our quick 2,000-foot climb to our initial altitude of 3,000 feet.
Under the shelf of the Class Bravo, I had to pull power back — my right-seater, Daher-Socata’s Mike Sarsfield, correctly informed me from experience that 80 percent power would give me right around 200 knots, and it did.
Takeoff out of Peachtree was in our southerly direction of flight, but as is the case with some busy reliever airports around the country, a climb directly to our requested altitude of 28,000 was simply not in the cards. The controller gave us 3,000 feet and we just kind of stayed there, occasionally getting a vector five degrees this way or five degrees that way but never getting higher. I asked Mike how long they were going to keep us down here. He replied, “It will seem like forever.”
“Forever” finally passed, and we were cleared in quick steps up to 260 and then, after a bit, to 280.
The wind wasn’t much help, 45 knots almost directly across the bow, a fact that still left us with better than 315 knots groundspeed. It would be a quick two hours en route while using right around 120 gallons of jet-A.
As we passed Ormond Beach, Florida, along the Atlantic coast, ATC started descending us. The vertical navigation capabilities of the G1000 make descent planning almost embarrassingly easy. Set in the desired altitude next to the waypoint, hit vertical nav, check to make sure the map shows your top of descent point (TOD), and you’re good to go. Descending is fast, which is nice. With a Vmo of 270 knots, much higher than most of the competition, you can stay fast all the way down and get to your destination sooner. The speed limit below 10,000 feet is 250 knots, so you do need to be aware of that restriction.
By the time we were in the terminal area, we were still fairly high, though descending in a pressurized airplane is a piece of cake compared with doing so in a nonpressurized model. The human ear can take only so much pressure change so fast. I was, I admit, a little nervous about landing a big turboprop, single or not, on a 3,255-foot-long runway, but Mike was so sanguine about the prospects, I figured he knew something I didn’t.