Best Of The Best 2006: Guiding Light
The Socata TBM 850 six-seat turboprop has been dubbed a “VLJ killer”—a plane that offers capabilities similar to those of the emerging class of very light jets, but at half the operating cost. Because a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66D powers the aircraft, you can fly it without undergoing jet pilot training and without acquiring a multiengine rating.
On a 500-mile trip, the TBM 850 would land just seven minutes behind a typical VLJ, and Socata claims that on a 1,200-mile journey, the 850 would arrive first, because VLJs need to slow down to stretch their range. This impressive turboprop, which cruises at 368 mph and can climb to 31,000 feet in 20 minutes, is faster and more powerful than its forerunner, the TBM 700. Already fully certified and ready for delivery, the 850 sells for $2.8 million.