Tom Horne

The 600th TBM clears customs; Its pilot gets socks

October 26, 2011 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

The 250-odd nm trip from Sept Iles, Quebec to Bangor, Maine was an easy, 50-minute jaunt in N600YR. With such a short leg, there was little concern over headwinds so it was a time for experimenting with the TBM 850’s long-range cruise performance.

So, power was dialed back to 63-percent torque. At the cruise altitude of FL280, fuel flow dropped to 40 gph, but true airspeed held at a respectable 250 knots. On the G1000’s multifunction display, the large map display showed our range rings–one was a dotted ring that showed where we’d have a 45-minute fuel reserve; a solid ring showed where the ship would hit bingo. Turns out that from Quebec this TBM could fly all the way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and still have legal IFR fuel reserves. Not bad. Pull the power lever back to 34-percent torque and endurance goes to seven hours!

It wasn’t long before this 600th TBM was parked on the customs ramp at Bangor, Maine’s International Airport. Out came the customs officer, complete with sidearm, stern looks, and a few questions. Did I have more than $100,000 on me? I wish. Is that a Rolex? No, it’s a Breitling. Did you buy it in Europe? Nope, in the U.S. Any food aboard? Just a few chocolate bars. And on and on. The airplane’s paperwork was reviewed, and then we were officially released.

Big sigh. N600YR was now officially imported, and could be legally flown to its buyer in Salt Lake City. This was big news, because Daher-Socata needed to get paid for the airplane within a day and a half. That way, the check could be deposited before the bank closed on the specified delivery date.

Clearing customs also meant Margrit and I could go into the Bangor FBO and make ready for the remaining legs. But there was other business to attend to. Thanks to e-mail, Facebook, and telephone, my friend–and long-time freelancer for AOPA, Dan Namowitz–was waiting in the FBO lobby. And he had my socks. Finally.

The saga of the socks has a history that goes back 15 years. On February 1, 1996 I was ferrying a Piper Seminole from the U.S. to Thailand. On the first leg of the trip (destination: St. John’s, Newfoundland (CYYT)) the Seminole’s Janitrol heater gave up the ghost. Just west of Boston. It was a cold, dark night and the cockpit quickly became cold-soaked, along with my feet and hands. I tried mightily to get the heater going but no dice. Too much air going through it? Too little? Everything I tried failed.

But I figured I could withstand it for as long as it took to get to Bangor and its 10,000-foot-long runway, where repairs could be made. The closer I got to Bangor, the more critical the situation became. I couldn’t feel my feet, and my hands were so cold that I had trouble dialing up frequencies. I had to use the heel of my hand to make power adjustments.

I taxied to the FBO, shut down, and headed for the lobby. Ahhhh, warmth at last. I began to thaw out, but would sure need some nice heavy wool socks for the remainder of the trip across the Atlantic. That’s when I called Dan. No answer, so I left a voice mail. “Hey, it’s me. I’m at the FBO and need some socks or my feet will freeze off.” Something like that.

Then another phone call. To Margrit, for whom I was flying in those days. She agreed to repairs, of course, but I had to get the plane to a shop in Bedford, Massachusetts. So after warming up I got back in the Seminole and backtracked to Bedford where the Janitrol’s fouled plug was cleaned and the daggone thing was returned to service. I climbed back in, took off into the night, and flew on in glorious, heated comfort–all the way to St. John’s.

But I never got the socks. Over the years, Dan and I would joke about the long-lost socks, and a few staffers came to know the story. So the word was passed to Dan: N600YR will land at BGR at 10 a.m., with Horne aboard. I turned around in the FBO and there was Namowitz. With an L.L. Bean paper bag containing……..yes! Socks!

The circle has been completed, both sock-wise and airplane-wise. From Bangor the TBM 850 made its way west.

Job done! Another great crossing in another great airplane. I can’t wait to do it again.

The author and his long-lost socks. Two pair, even!

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