FLYING’s First Look: Daher TBM 960

Subtle changes now should reap large benefits for this turboprop’s pilots over the long term.

Editor-in-chief Julie Boatman took a satisfying first flight in the Daher TBM 960, the latest in the TBM lineage. [Photo: Julie Boatman]

The most obvious change lies in the automated engine start—and we sequenced through that procedure first.

After that, the differences between the 960 and its predecessor, the 940, are subtle ones, integrations of various elements and capabilities that the series collected. They now come together in a package that should prove its worth to pilots and owners.

I could tell you about how each piece connects with its brethren—and I plan to in an upcoming edition of "We Fly" in our newly upgraded print journal.

But for now, I’ll just tell you how it feels.

All of the Feels

I joined up with Daher’s director of training, Wayman Luy, and TBM sales promotion director Philippe de Segovia for our great escape from the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, Florida (KLAL), on Sunday. We followed the conga line out to Runway 10, and I lined up behind a V-tail Bonanza on the right-hand side of the runway, according to the departure procedure.

With the head nod from ATC, I brought the power lever full forward on the new Pratt & Whitney PT6E-66XT and watched the airspeed tape come alive. At 85 knots indicated, with a nudge of the yoke, we broke ground and sped easily into the flaps-up speed of 115 kias with the gear coming into the wells.

The French-registered demo snuggled into the 124-knot maximum climb rate like it belonged there. And with the harmony surrounding me, I let it flow. 

Once clear of the airspace south of Lakeland, Luy orchestrated a series of maneuvers that I played out. After a couple of landings at another airport on the way, we touched down at Pompano Beach Airpark (KPMP), Daher’s primary home on the east coast.

The new Pratt & Whitney PT6E-66XT—under the cowling opened by Wayman Luy—benefits from an autostart function and digital data capture, contributing to a 5,000-hr TBO. [Photo: Julie Boatman]

The Sum of Powerful Parts

While I found a few details that may be worth consideration, those would likely be driven into the customer-centric feedback propelled by the Daher team. It’s clear that’s how they arrived at this point in the model series.

With FAA acceptance of the new turboprop’s EASA approval imminent, there are already six TBM 960s waiting on the ramp at Tarbes, ready to go to fortunate pilots, indeed.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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