‘We Need to Fly Aircraft—We Don’t Fly PowerPoints’

Daher stays on the forefront of sustainable reality through several efforts, including its TBM 960, Kodiak 900 and 100, its pilot app—and a true demonstrator.

The TBM 960 gained EASA certification in February 2022, but this is the first time the airplane has been on display in Europe, at AERO 2023 in Friedrichshafen, Germany. [Credit: Julie Boatman]

“As aviators…we need to fly aircraft—we don’t fly PowerPoints.” 

Whether he meant it to become a catchphrase or not, when Nicolas Chabbert, senior vice president of Daher’s Aircraft Division, talked of making real progress on sustainability through methodical increments that will be relevant and sellable to the market, he managed to encapsulate what so many in the industry have felt: We’re making our way towards sustainability with the quotidian work that the general aviation industry does with each more efficient aircraft—in Daher’s case, the TBM 960 and the Kodiak 900 and 100—better data monitoring and analysis, and the application of lessons learned.

Near-Term and Long-Term Goals

With sustainable aviation critical to keeping us in the air, several movements are underway that provide both near-term and long-range solutions. “For us, we believe that the future of aviation is going to lie in technology, and technology is going to have different aspects,” said Chabbert in Daher’s press conference at AERO 2023 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, on April 19.

The first step is one most manufacturers have embraced and operators are willing to adopt if they haven’t already done so—or had the chance—and that’s sustainable aviation fuel. “The planes that we have flown from Tarbes [for display at AERO] were both fueled with SAF,” he said. “We have the ability to use—on the field—the SAF, and that’s important for us that this adoption has been made.”

Adding to this is another near-term project, the EcoPulse demonstrator, a TBM airframe utilizing hybrid energy technology to test out various concepts using electric and traditional means of propulsion. Chabbert identified three main areas of focus during the testing: the choice of using the traditional means of energy or electric motorization in a given phase of flight, the storage of energy in fuel or batteries, and how that energy is distributed to the engines. 

The distribution element turns out to be a key part of the puzzle. “That is something that most of the people are forgetting,” said Chabbert. “It’s probably where technology is most critical today, and I gotta tell you that with all of the things that I’ve been able to monitor…a lot of the people that we’ve visited, I am surprised that we are discovering things ourselves that have not been disclosed by anyone—and distribution of energy is going to be one of the challenges to make technology available on our aircraft.”

“The plane is flying—it’s currently into a very thorough test flight campaign,” said Chabbert. “We are going to display the airplane at Paris Air Show, Le Bourget, and we are going to be able to fly [in] an electrical mode just after Le Bourget.”

Once Daher has completed part of the program—in conjunction with Airbus and Safran, the two partners on this demonstrator, “we will make some decisions, [and] we will take the time for the analysis,” concluded Chabbert. “So [then] we can specify what will be the first hybrid aircraft, which we intend to announce by the end of our middle-term plan, which will end in 2027.  We are committed to come with a real solution in the marketplace. 

“What you will see on the demonstrator is not what is going to be the product. That is the difference between what you demonstrate and what you are going to use. [We will take] those specifications, and come back with our different vendors and see who is going to be able to deliver what we need to put together in our one product solution.”

Kodiak 900 EASA Validation

This year’s AERO is also the European debut for two aircraft—though one has yet to make its way across the pond. The Kodiak 900, which debuted at EAA AirVenture 2022, had secured its validation on April 3 under the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and Daher is set to deliver its first unit to a European customer this fall.

Marco Capaccio, the Small Aircraft Section Manager for EASA, hands over the brand-new EASA type certificate for the Kodiak 900 to Daher's senior vice president of the Aircraft Division, Nicolas Chabbert, at AERO 2023 on April 20. [Credit: Julie Boatman]

Chabbert identified the 900 as a great fit for the local market. “I have to say that this is the perfect aircraft for the German market. This is a King Air 350-sized cabin, and this is the aircraft that can not only take a lot of people, but it can safely fly IFR—and fast—to destinations that are short hops that are typical of a country such as Germany, but also looking at the landscape in Europe [in general].”

The Kodiak 100 on display came over from the U.K. for the event, and Chabbert highlighted the updates that will be available to the 100 series. The first fits well in with Daher’s environmental message—a 5-blade composite Hartzell propeller that debuted at Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo last month. One of the biggest achievements for the new prop vis-à-vis the European market is its reduced noise signature, a full 6-plus decibels below the 4-blade prop. “The TBM 960 is at 76.9, the Kodiak 900 is at 78, so all those aircraft are in exactly the noise signature that is the lowest in the market,” said Chabbert.

The other is the upgrade path to the Garmin G1000 NXi, now available as both a new flight deck moving forward, and a retrofit kit.

Daher has delivered a total of 323 Kodiaks, with most orders to deliver in 2024 representing an even split between the 100 and the 900.

TBM 960 Completes a Year

The other aircraft to grace the display floor at AERO was F-HAHF, serial number 1409—the first production TBM 960. It’s been on a tour over in the U.S. as well as around Europe, and now gives the audience at Friedrichshafen the chance to see its new Pratt & Whitney PT6E-66XT up close.

But it’s what’s behind the powerplant that makes a big difference, and Daher has been learning a lot since the model’s introduction. It features the EPECS (engine and propeller electronic control system), which sends a bevy of engine data—including fault messages—to the avionics and in downloadable form.

“We have worked with Pratt & Whitney on almost predictive maintenance, and this is more or less a new field. We learn a lot—it was not easy to adjust—and I think there is still a lot we can do, but this defines the modern support for the fleet,” said Chabbert of the incredible amount of data to analyze.

Daher has delivered a total of 1,139 TBMs, with the TBM 900 series set to achieve delivery number 500 sometime in the late summer of 2023.

The Me & MyTBM app is on its sixth version with improvements targeted at helping TBM pilots adopt better habits, both in stabilized approaches and operational efficiency. [Courtesy: Daher]

Me & MyTBM App

The final effort covered by Daher in its themes on sustainability and safety is the evolution of its pilot app, Me & MyTBM, into a means by which pilots can actually change their habitual patterns. What does this have to do with efficiency? That’s one aspect of the scoring used within the app’s challenge portion. But even more critical may be the app’s ability to connect the pilot with an instructor—and work towards safer operations, such as more stabilized approaches. “We can change—radically—aviation safety with data,” said Chabbert.

New features on the sixth version of the app—in the five years since its launch—include:

  • Multiple pilot tracking per aircraft
  • Flight-type qualification, to distinguish between training and passenger flights, for example
  • Automatic download of data
  • Tracking of flights with multiple landings
  • An updated challenge summary, with a printout allowing for an instructor to validate and sign

A Real Tomorrow

“So this is definitely tomorrow,” said Chabbert, “but this is a real tomorrow, this is actual, this is not something which is presented on PowerPoint. You can come to Tarbes, you can see the demonstrator, you can see what we actually do.”

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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