Tom Horne

Delivering TBM’s 600th

October 20, 2011 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Employees form up to make a human "600," with the real McCoy in the background

Horne here. And by “here” I mean at Daher-Socata’s factory in Tarbes, France. I’m getting ready to deliver the 600th TBM to the United States–a trip that is set to begin tomorrow. This means flying yet another Atlantic crossing,  but this time I won’t be alone. One of Daher-Socata’s favorite veteran ferry pilots–Margrit Waltz–will be my minder on what promises to be a memorable trip. Maybe you’ve seen Waltz’s image  featured in Pratt & Whitney’s latest round of ads. Pratt touts her as one the company’s true believers, using the “PT6 proud” tag line as I recall.

The 600th TBM, ready for delivery

In any case, the airplane–N600YR–is destined for an owner in Oregon. Our route will take us to Wick, Scotland and Reykjavik, Iceland on the first day. The second day will include stops at Narsarssuaq, Greenland and either Goose Bay, Labrador or St. John’s, Newfoundland. Then we’ll soldier on to Bangor, Maine to clear customs and wind up at AOPA’s home base at Frederick Maryland’s Municipal airport. Assuming no weather or other diversions of course.

Today was a fun day at the Daher-Socata plant. Daher-Socata’s director of product marketing Philippe de Segovia organized a photo shoot. A bunch of the company’s 1,000 or so employees were staged on the ramp so as to spell out the numerals “600.” It was like herding cats, moving people here and there so as to make a good-looking three digits from photographer Thomas Jullien’s cherry-picker vantage point.

TBM 850 final assembly line

Customer relations officer Caroline Van Berkel gave me a tour of the plant. Much has changed since my last visit in 2007, when Daher-Socata president Nicolas Chabbert and I last flew a TBM850 to the States. Daher-Socata now has new capital equipment and is a major subcontractor for a number of aerospace companies. It makes nose cones and nose gear doors for Airbus’ A380s. It makes main landing gear doors for Airbus’ upcoming A350XWB, and belly fairings for A330s and A340s. Falcon 7X’s have their fuselages built here. Eurocopter EC532, AS355 Twinstar, and EC350 Astar fuselage assemblies are also made at the Tarbes plant. Daher-Socata has a new carbon-fiber tape-placement robot for making composite components, plus two large autoclaves and three smaller ones. And there’s been talk of some day making the TBM850′s fuselage of carbon fiber.

In a speech to employees, Daher–Socata president and CEO mentioned to need to emphasize safety. This, in the wake of an engine-failure accident last week. The crash took place after maintenance work and resulted in a forced landing on an Interstate highway near Daher-Socata’s North American home at the North Perry Aiport in Ft. Lauderdale. Pilot Alain Jaubert and mechanic Donato Pinto were injured, no people on the ground were hurt, and an investigation continues. “Safety comes first,” Mayer said. “Everything else comes after that. Mayer also said that parent company Daher will be opening a new product support and parts inventory facility in Marseilles, France.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for details of the first two legs.

3 Responses to “Delivering TBM’s 600th”

  1. Brian Klutenkamper Says:

    Congratulations to Daher-Socata! We are anxious to find the right one for us. Have heard nothing but good remarks about TBM’s. We are looking for a good 700A or B model.

  2. Mike Crognale Says:

    Thanks for the article Tom. I was stationed at the old Rockville radar station ’84 to ’86. My family and I lived on the Naval Base. I was astounded at the picture of the Northern Lights Hotel. We used to go there to have supper. Man has that improved. The picture of the dining room was beautiful. How about some pictures if you took them?
    Regards,
    Mike

  3. Karl Zimmerman Says:

    Congratulations to Daher Socata! We are very anxious to see the 700 and 800. With the new Century model they will be better for sure. Composite parts. Avionics. More engine power. Better interiors. Most important wingtips! Will be beautiful. More competitive for sure. Too bad Socata will not be following the two engine! But that’s the price of getting people with name but no talent. I hope that is not what brings them down.

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