Aircraft Review

June 2007 Issue

TBM 850: Who Needs a VLJ?

Or at least thatís what Socata would like buyers to think. In fact, the TBM carries more fuel and flied farther than the typical 1100-mile VLJ without giving up much in speed.

All but obscured by the lava flow of VLJ hype is this simple reality: For more than a year, one of the most conservative and oldest airplane manufacturers in the world has been delivering a single-engine turboprop with the performance, legs and load-carrying ability to make any would-be VLJ buyer think twice. The EADS Socata TBM 850 whistles along at a max cruise of 320 knots at FL260, only 20 knots slower than most of the VLJs advertise. It goes further with a load of passengers and burns a lot less fuel. For the owner-pilot, the speed, operating costs and the allure of limiting insurance-mandated training to three days a year rather than nearly two weeks for the VLJ means that the 850 is a contender. We were surprised by the numbers, frankly.

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