Daher is renowned for blending speed and functional beauty – their newest model, the TBM 930, is no exception.
I consider my home in aviation to be the single-engine turbine market. I love the business-savvy, efficiency-driven, “get ‘er done” mindset common among the pilots in this special niche in aviation. They are movers and shakers in the business world, and they don’t see any reason why they can’t take the controls and “fly it themselves.” But above all else, they value their time. It is their most important commodity. And one of the best ways to maximize time if you’re a frequent traveler is to take an airplane. Single-engine turbine pilots figure it might as well be in their own airplane.
Often, their first real business airplane is a Bonanza, Mooney, Saratoga, or Cirrus. Next, they might move up to a Malibu, Meridian, or Centurion. Once they make it to this point, the pinnacle of the owner-flown world, they will likely look – no, not look – they will gaze longingly at a TBM 900 series. Why? The TBM 900 series is at the top of the single-engine turbine market. Any aircraft offering a combination of speed and range that exceeds a TBM 900 series will require the logistical complexity of hiring professional pilots (usually two or more) and will be an inefficient fuel gulper. Neither of those situations jives with why an owner-pilot climbed the single-engine turbine ladder in the first place.
The TBM has been around since the early 90’s and quickly carved a niche in the single-engine turbine world. The company’s original TBM 700 is a fine airplane, but it wasn’t long before it became apparent that more payload and speed were desired. In the early 2000’s, the TBM 700C2 hit the market boasting a much better useful load, and soon after the TBM 850 appeared with added speed. The latter TBM 850’s achieved the G1000 avionics upgrade, but the complete package was made available with the arrival of the speedy TBM 900 series. Today, Daher offers buyers the TBM 910 (Garmin G1000) and the TBM 930 (Garmin G3000).
In October, I had the chance to fly the latest TBM 930 model when David Crockett flew to my home airport, Cherokee County Airport in Jacksonville, Texas (KJSO). No, I am not referring to the Alamo hero and “king of the wild frontier.” David is a vastly experienced and super knowledgeable TBM guru from Cutter Aviation in San Antonio. When he arrived in the 930, so did plenty of others from about the airport. Photographer Clint Goff and pilot Jimmy Stewart arrived to coordinate the aerial flight, and following them were other gawkers from KJSO just interested in seeing the gorgeous aircraft. Luckily, the dreary morning gave way to a beautiful afternoon, which afforded us the chance to get plenty of aerial shots as well as put the TBM 930 through its paces.
In a nutshell, my overall impressions of the TBM 930 are: 1) It’s a complete package 2) The airplane is unabashedly gorgeous 3) I cannot fathom how they are going to further improve upon this model. The 930 is not a reinvention of the TBM series of airplanes, but it is the version with all the bells and whistles Daher could think to include. Of all of the TBMs, it is the fastest, goes the farthest, and offers the most technologically-advanced avionics and every creature-comfort available. Daher created a thing of functional beauty.
As someone who has climbed over the spar in the PA46 series of airplanes for nearly two decades, I think the pilot-side door is simply awesome as it provides super-easy access to either of the front seats. The back-seaters also have easy access with a huge rear-entry door that is easy to open, and only requires the push of a button to close. For anyone familiar with the pains of opening and closing a King Air door, this door is bigger, easier to operate, and safer.
The first thing you notice when climbing in is the quality of the interior – and I do not just mean fine leather. Daher has added exceptional touches such as heated seats, dual-zone climate controls, excellent lighting, and craftsmanship above and beyond the expected.
The second thing you notice (especially if you are a 6’4” pilot) is the space. The front seat legroom is generous, and I did not hit my head on the ceiling once. I also really appreciate the small space between the pedals which allows my feet to extend completely. The adjustable rudder pedals add another dimension of ergonomic flexibility not found on many other single-engine turbines.
Taxiing out was Cessna172-easy, but you could tell there were horses under the hood awaiting their opportunity to run. David and I ran through the various checklists, all which would be normal for any turbine pilot, and soon we were airborne. The initial climb rate was more than 2,000 fpm, but we had a three-quarter-full tank of fuel and no passengers, so I was not surprised. We found 5,500 feet MSL quickly and met up with our photo airplane, a Cessna 182 (Jimmy and Clint) on the TCAS alerts on the MFD. I was able to explore the low-speed capabilities of the 930 by
deploying a notch of flaps and reining in the horses. Docile, steady, and predictable – those adjectives best describe the 930 in slow flight. My job was to fly the 930 smoothly and precisely while the Cessna 182 flew off of our right side in formation taking pictures. The smoother and steadier I flew, the better and easier for Clint and Jimmy. Helping me do so was a plethora of G3000-gadgets: AOA, flight path marker, and safety features like USP and envelope protection. I felt like Chuck Yeager anchoring our formation.
Once the photo mission was complete, I took the 930 up higher to explore the stall characteristics. The stall break is certainly noticeable in the TBM series. If you fly through the cacophony of noises and alarms warning you of the approaching high angle of attack, you find that a wing will drop in the stall (for me it was the left wing) – this is likely due to the big propeller up front. It is easily recoverable with a nudge forward on the yoke, but the wing-drop is more prevalent than the PA-46 series, King Air series, and most single-engine trainers.
David allowed me to do all of the flying on this test flight, which is a nice change for a career flight instructor. When I flew the GPS approach to Runway 32 at KJSO, I let the autopilot fly the initial portions of the approach, and switched everything off and hand-flew the glide-slope down. I touched down smoothly and with no darting of the nose wheel. Without trying to land short, I easily turned off at the mid-field taxiway, effectively landing in 2,500 feet without the use brakes and only a small amount of reverse prop. The airplane will go fast for sure, but it handles the short fields with ease.
Owning a TBM 930 provides you with the newest and best of the TBMs, but it also means you want and value the best avionics money can buy. The Garmin G3000 is singularly outstanding, providing a myriad of ways to present just about any piece of flight information desired. Screens can be either full or split, and anything can be seemingly presented anywhere. Want the approach plate on the PFD? Not a problem – split the screen and pop it up. Like vertical and horizontal radar? Ditto – you can have both presented at the same time on different screens. Want to go basic and just have flight information in front of you? Easy.
You can display so much data before you that it is quite simple to put your favorite data on a particular screen. I have a standard setup that I like: approach plate on the far left in the PFD, flight instruments on the right side of the PFD, the map view on the left side of the MFD, and the radar on the right. Once I put the info on the screen in the TBM, I did not have to change screens. With some other avionics suites, you have to shift data on the fewer (or singular) screens, effectively removing some data from view. In the G3000, there’s so much screen space that everything is in front of you and few changes are required.
But let’s get to it – how fast will it really fly? Will the TBM 900 series actually cruise at 325 KTAS?
I recently trained with a client for his “mentor training” and we flew from Texas up to the Pacific Northwest, and then on to Alaska. We routinely saw 325 KTAS during the trip, and even saw 330 KTAS at optimal altitudes and temperatures. For this article, I contacted some of my TBM clients, and they too report seeing speeds like this regularly. While some airplanes have sales reports with inflated cruise numbers, the TBM series is as-advertised. I also asked several of my clients who own TBM 930s why they bought one. Although asked separately, the answers were very similar from each client.
“This was the only single-engine turbine airplane that can carry four-plus people with bags, go 1,000-plus nm, and land on a 3,000-foot strip,” related one client. “I’m a big guy, and I can’t get over the spar on some of the other turbines, so the pilot door was the deciding factor,” said another. “I like to be able to keep the power up in the descent, making the final portions of my trips faster,” reported a third.
Every single client I asked said in one way or another, “I want to go as fast as possible, but I don’t want the expense of a jet.”
When David departed KJSO, several of the locals (including me) went to the runway edge to watch the TBM departure. We all tried to figure out the place to be to get the best view. Of course, that placement depended upon how quickly the TBM would leave the ground. We set up at midfield, and all of us were amazed to see the 930 lift off in just over 1,000 feet of runway, and then climb like the proverbial bat. Once it was out of sight, we continued to stand and discuss the TBM and came up with the same conclusion, “What an airplane!”