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.
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.
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.