TB 20 Trinidad flight report
THOMAS A. HORNE
(From AOPA Pilot, June 2002.)
the early 1980s, Socata has been steadily carving out
market share in the piston-single arena. The
French-based company (now under the umbrella of EADS —
the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company,
makers of Airbus airliners, Eurocopter rotorcraft,
Ariane rocketry, and military aviation hardware) got its
first real toehold in the United States after the
product liability crisis raised its head, big time, in
1986. That's when Cessna stopped building piston
singles, and Beech and Piper cut their piston-airplane
manufacturing way, way back. Suddenly, Socata's singles
— the TB 9 Tampico, TB 10 Tobago, TB 20 Trinidad, and TB
21 Trinidad TC (a turbocharged version of the TB 20) —
were the only new singles being produced in volume.
Suddenly, there were more Socata airplanes on American
ramps, and they no longer seemed so strange or exotic.
They'd become accepted.
Of all the
airplanes in the TB series (the TB stands for Tarbes,
the French city where Socata has its manufacturing
site), the Trinidad has proven the most popular. Its
mating of a normally aspirated Textron Lycoming
250-horsepower engine with a roomy four-seat cabin,
86-gallon fuel tanks, and the airplane's 1,200-pound
useful load makes it a nice cruising machine with true
airspeeds just 10 or so knots below those of a normally
aspirated Raytheon Beechcraft Bonanza.
Then there are
the stylistic aspects of the TB series' design. The
gull-wing doors are the first to catch your eye, and
they let you and your passengers enter and exit the
cockpit with ease. They're sort of the aviation
equivalent of the famous Mercedes-Benz 300SL's gull-wing
doors, with the way they're hinged at the top and swing
open wide. Their huge window areas also give you great
visibility. Caveats: Don't let a gust of wind yank the
doors from your grip during ground operations, and be
prepared for the greenhouse effect in hot, sunny
The seats are
excellent. Designed by Recaro, a firm that provides
high-quality seats for upscale automobiles, they are
firm, ergonomically correct, and come with side bolsters
and really commendable lumbar support. All general
aviation seats should be this well designed.
new Trinidads have the GT suffix added to their names.
This stands for Generation Two, meaning that the
airframe can be endowed with a number of noteworthy
improvements. These include:
windows, made possible by elimination of the external,
vertical aluminium window pillars on the gull-wing
doors and aft windows. The windows are now tinted
Plexiglas inserts, which blend more naturally into
the airplane's lines at the same time they provide
footsteps. Retract the gear and the steps retract too,
anti-ice. This is an optional TKS system that uses a
glycol fluid reservoir (accessible through a dedicated
access door in the cowl) and routes fluid to the
propeller via small tubes. Cockpit instrumentation for
the system includes a rocker switch for the two-speed
fluid pump and a low-fluid indicator light.
three-blade Hartzell propeller, which is necessary if
the TKS propeller anti-ice is ordered.
headroom, thanks to expanded cabin dimensions and a
vertical stabilizer and upswept wing tips. Earlier
models had squared-off wing tips and a vertical
stabilizer that jutted up from the fuselage at a
luggage door than prior models.
Now that we've
established the Trinidad GT as one unique, capable
airplane, it's time to take the concept several steps
As part of the
AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Online Auction effort,
Socata, ASF, and a number of corporate participants have
come together to create the supreme GT, one that's
packed with safety equipment, just about every option on
the price sheet, and one remarkable paint job. This
prize airplane even has a name: The Spirit of Liberty.
The name sets
the theme of the paint job, though calling it a "paint
job" is a misuse of the term. Maaco does paint jobs;
this is a work of art.
The art is a
creation of Oxford Aviation, of Oxford, Maine. Long
renowned for the quality of their work, The Spirit of
Liberty proves that Oxford's president, Jim Horowitz,
and his crew of experts are fully capable of rising to
symbolizes Franco-American patriotic unity. The
inspiration, of course, was a response to the September
11 terrorist attacks. From the right wing flows the
French tricolour. From the left, the Stars and Stripes.
They intertwine mid-fuselage — best viewed from above,
as you can in the cover photograph. Oxford designer
Margaret Larlee came up with the flag layout's look and
dimensions, and the extensive airbrushing was the work
of Thomas Williams.
alone is enough to make this airplane noteworthy. The
avionics package, which includes practically every
option available on the TB 20, is the icing on the cake.
pièce de résistance is its Honeywell Bendix/King IHAS
5000 avionics suite. The IHAS (Integrated Hazard
Avoidance System) consists of a moving map — of course —
plus traffic-, terrain-, and weather-avoidance
information, all displayed on a 6.2-inch-wide,
4-inch-high display unit that Honeywell Bendix/King
calls the KMD 550.
terrain advisories are provided via the KMH 880 sensing
unit, which incorporates an enhanced ground proximity
warning system (EGPWS), complete with aural advisories.
Also included in The Spirit of Liberty is a Honeywell
Bendix/King KLN 94 GPS receiver, KFC 150 autopilot and
flight control system, KY 297 altitude pre-select unit,
KDR 510 digital datalink receiver, and Goodrich Avionics
WX-500 Stormscope. The KMD 550, with its large color
liquid-crystal display, is the panel's centrepiece. By
pushing dedicated function and line select keys around
the display's periphery, you can make the 550 show:
map, based on GPS inputs, which shows terrain
features, airports, and an alphanumeric readout of
your present position described in latitude/longitude
or range and bearing from the nearest airports or VORs.
Track and groundspeed information is also presented.
information from the KMH 880's traffic advisory system
terrain advisories from the 880's EGPWS ("pull up,
pull up") functionality, plus height-above-ground
lightning plots from the WX-500.
textual weather (such as METARs, TAFs, area forecasts,
and pireps) and ground-based Nexrad colour weather
radar imagery, beamed up from Honeywell's network of
terrestrial stations and sent through the ship's
datalink receiver. This system uses Flight Information
Systems-Broadcast (FIS-B) technology, meaning that the
information is broadcast continuously.
All of these
features make this TB 20 one of the most well-equipped
piston singles in the world. With everything but
airborne weather radar (which is not yet available in
the TB series), the pilot of this airplane will have
unparalleled situational and weather awareness. And
don't let the lack of airborne weather radar make you
think this airplane's been short-changed. The uplinked
Nexrad imagery can give a truer picture of any storm
cells than any airborne radar. That's because powerful
ground-based radars like these use monstrous antennas
that produce powerful, narrow beams that are
attenuation-free. Their radar signals can penetrate deep
into storm cells, unlike airborne radars that can bounce
their energy back prematurely and give false returns
when heavy precipitation is near.
To get a good
sense of any airplane, it's important to live with it
and fly it on different types of missions. It was my
good fortune to fly N708TB — The Spirit of Liberty —
from the Oxford County Regional Airport in Oxford, Maine
(Oxford Aviation's home base), all the way to Lakeland,
Florida's Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. The purpose
of the trip was to deliver the airplane to the Sun 'n
Fun EAA Fly-In, where it would grace the Socata static
display area. I made the trip in three legs — from
Oxford to AOPA's home field at Maryland's Frederick
Municipal Airport; from Frederick to Georgia's Savannah
International Airport; and from Savannah to Lakeland.
Total flight time was nine hours, 15 minutes. In one
from Oxford was humorous. Delivery flights are always
tinged with chaos and last-minute scurrying, and this
was no exception. The Oxford crew was still buffing the
airplane's paint as I got in the cockpit. It was as if
they didn't want to let it go: The plane was gassed up,
Horowitz brought two boxes of goodies for cleaning the
paint properly and some touch-up paint, all of Oxford's
shop workers were out on the ramp taking pictures, and
it was, "OK, let's do one with the doors open; OK, now
let me get a ladder for a high shot; OK…hey, what's that
streak on the windshield? Let's rub that wax off; OK,
now you stand in front of the plane…now you…and you…."
You get the idea.
finished the runup and began entering the flight plan
into 708TB's KLN 94, I noticed several people coming
toward the airplane, waving and pointing to a riveter in
one man's hand. They motioned for me to open the door.
Seems they forgot to install the data plate and Oxford
Aviation's decal on the aft fuselage. Probably
distracted by the picture taking.
first leg of the trip was fairly uneventful. For takeoff
you dial in some right rudder trim (there's a takeoff
setting on the rudder trim scale, just to your right on
the centre pedestal), put the flaps to the takeoff
setting, line up on the runway, floor it, rotate at 68
knots, and climb away at 75, then 95 to 100 kt. I
levelled off at 6,000 feet, then set power at 22 inches
manifold pressure and 2,500 rpm, then leaned the mixture
to about 100 degrees rich of peak EGT. The result was a
75-percent power setting and a 16-gph fuel burn. The
airplane had but 12 hours on it, so it was important to
run it hard to help seat the piston rings and otherwise
break in the shiny new Lycoming.
There was some
light icing in the clouds from Massachusetts to central
Connecticut, so I turned on the TKS propeller anti-ice.
I used the low-speed pump setting — the anti-ice
position, and one that would use glycol at one-fourth
gph. At this rate the half-gallon tank of glycol would
last for two hours, 10 minutes, according to the pilot's
operating handbook. At the high-flow setting, the glycol
would last for one hour, 35 minutes.
on this leg worked out to 157 kt, which was very close
to book predictions. Periodically I checked the
airplane's Shadin fuel totalizer — another option — to
see my fuel status. By the time I reached Delaware I was
in and out of snow showers, mesmerized by the way snow
seems to speed by in masses of unbroken streaks. After
three hours, 15 minutes and 500 nm of flying, I was in
the pattern at Frederick. It was bumpy, windy, and gusty
for the arrival, and I landed in a 25-kt crosswind that
the Trinidad handled without the slightest bit of drift
or other complaint. Believe me, it wasn't my technique.
This is the airplane's maximum demonstrated crosswind
component, so once again the book seems not to have
The leg to
Savannah was distinguished by steady, light turbulence
and tailwinds that pushed groundspeeds to the 182-kt
mark. The leg to Lakeland was the same at first, but
when night fell the turbulence disappeared. Flying in
and out of clouds between Jacksonville and Ocala, I
could look down and see miles-long traffic backups on
Florida's highways, long ribbons of red taillights. How
lucky to be zooming by at 200-plus mph. Cabin lighting
is excellent, by the way, with overhead and yoke-mounted
map lights, internal instrument lighting, and
glare-shield flood lighting. It reminds me of Bonanza
should mention that the seats were vital to this
mission's success. You see, owing to an unfortunate
encounter involving sonic rodent-repellent equipment and
a disrespect for proper lifting techniques, I royally
screwed up my back before the trip began. But the
Trinidad's seat design let me fly in comfort the whole
gratifying to finish a long trip, and especially
satisfying to make a delivery flight on schedule. So it
was at Lakeland. I'd flown nearly the entire length of
the eastern seaboard in style and comfort, IFR and VFR,
unburdened by hubs and spokes, invasive security checks,
or long waits. I'm looking forward to more flights in