Socata Flying High at EAA AirVenture

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EADS Socata’s new chairman and CEO, Jean-Michel Lonard, came to his first EAA AirVenture show with momentum on his side. The French aircraft manufacturer said sales of its souped-up TBM 850 turboprop single has now passed the 100-airplane mark, and Lonard sees no erosion in interest whatsoever due to the in-service entrance of the very light jets. While the 320-knot cruise speed of the $2.85 million(2007 $) TBM 850 is comparable to the VLJs, he says the turboprop “is more efficient than a jet, and it also produces fewer emissions than a jet. Jets use 50 percent more fuel than a turboprop, so I’m quite puzzled by the number of very light jet projects.” Lonard notes that TBM sales has increased from 31 aircraft in 2005 to 50 this year, and the current backlog is a record 40 aircraft. On Friday, Socata delivered S/N 411 (the 61st TBM 850) at EAA AirVenture. Meanwhile, the company is exploring new additions to its product line.

“We’re working on new designs, but no decision has been made yet. Also, we are looking at different powerplants,” Lonard said, though he tells Avweb that any follow-on airplane would probably be powered by a turbine, meaning either a turboprop or turbofan. He would not disclose when the new aircraft might be announced or whether it will have one or two engines.

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