60 Minutes with Nicolas Chabbert, Senior Vice President of Daher Airplane Business Unit

Last month at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas we sat down with Nicolas Chabbert, SVP Airplane Business Unit at Daher, one of the most successful private companies in France. Arguably the chief architect of Daher’s TBM program, Nicolas talked with us about a recent acquisition, the company’s major milestones and what personal aircraft companies must become to be successful in the years ahead.

CS: There have been at least two important developments in recent weeks at Daher.  Can you share your thought on them both?

NC: As you know from the press conference today, we have completed the acquisition of Quest Aircraft, makers of the Kodiak 100 aircraft and based in Sandpoint, Idaho.  With the acquisition, we not only add an incredibly impressive aircraft to complement the TBM line, but we also gain an important North American production facility and 250 terrific new team members to help us realize the full potential of the acquisition. There is no doubt in our minds that the business will be stronger together. We are already seeing new interest in both aircraft from both existing customers and prospects.

The other exciting news is that the TBM 940 is ready for delivery with EASA certification and FAA validation. The 940 is a fantastic evolution to the previous TBM models, with thoughtful ergonomic upgrades, automatic deicing, and an innovative new auto-throttle system. The new automation dramatically simplifies aircraft operation, making the aircraft just that much easier and safer to fly. The report we constantly get is that the 940 is virtually a new aircraft.

With its completion of the Quest Aircraft Company’s acquisition, Daher establishes a complete scope of U.S. industrial activities

CS: How will the global market factor into Daher’s business in the coming years?

NC: for the Kodiak 100, we sense some opportunities with TBM customers who want a second aircraft with the Kodiak’s capabilities and specifications (for example, the aircraft on floats) and with the service and support network our customers have come to expect from Daher. There is a very large opportunity with a mission and paramilitary customers in many areas of the world, particularly in markets where the short field and unimproved runway capabilities of the plane are especially important. We have begun the marketing efforts already.  And we expect to see lots of interesting tag-along opportunities for TBM sales, especially in South-Asia where the Kodiak is well distributed.

CS: You have made incredible advances in speed, efficiency and most recently in automation/safety feature development and implementation at Daher.  Can you share your thoughts on the latest advances in the TBM 940 and how automation introduced in recent models works together?

NC: At Daher, we focus on three main drivers of value for our customers of the TBM aircraft family. 1st, aircraft speed and on our ability to continue to integrate the latest technology into the product for more performance and efficiency. 2nd, with careful attention to cockpit layout and technology integration, we make each generation of aircraft easier to fly with a smarter flight deck. The 3rd driver is a consequence of the first two -safety. The features we incorporated into the TBM 940 and the care we have taken in how we have engineered these features drastically reduces pilot work load while protecting pilots from making mistakes in all phases of flight. With the 940, the reduced workload that the technology offers allows the pilot to focus on all important situational awareness which becomes particularly critical during the approach and landing phases. 

We are working on lots of new features that will be introduced in future aircraft but the 940 represents a major milestone in the evolution of this program.

CS: These are exciting times in aviation. What are your thoughts on the emerging UAV, VTOL/eVTOL and private space travel segments of our industry? What impact do you expect from them on traditional aviation and Daher going forward?

NC: We are partnering with Safran and Airbus on a project named Eco-Pulse to accelerate our understanding of how power distribution can be designed into future products.  We are using the TBM platform for demonstration purposes before moving to develop a formal product roadmap. We are focused on STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) as our top priority. We believe the STOL segment is the appropriate market for us and one that we can address in the near term with hybrid power solutions. There are a number of these power plant solutions in development and we are monitoring them all very closely.

We are also very focused on environmental concerns, in particular, noise and CO2 emissions.  Propeller driven aircraft offer a substantial advantage over even the quietest jet solutions. We believe that noise mitigation will become increasingly important from an environmental and societal perspective.  We believe these concerns will create significant challenges to all-electric-power solutions.

CS: Anything else on your mind?  Topics of interest we otherwise missed?

NC: I believe aviation must adapt to the challenges of a fast-moving society.  It is so important that the industry find new path to address societal and environmental concerns. But to do so, we must innovate rapidly. We need to understand what people expect from us and adjust accordingly. Of course, we can’t do it alone, but our industry must work harder and faster together.  We must propose practical solutions and adapt to a changing world.

At Daher, we launched along with the Armstrong initiative, the General Aviation hackathon. The purpose is to challenge innovators so that they can propose (1) enhancements for our TBM product line and (2) Customer-driven service solutions. The first contest has been a huge success and will help us launch new projects for our aircraft.

We aren’t just selling a piece of technology. Yes, we are selling a sophisticated product, but we are also selling related services and an incredible flight experience.  Me & My TBM is the application we launched in 2018 on IOS and Android. Designed to utilize our customers flight and engine data, the application is organized to inform, educate and inspire them to re-play their last flights, learn from data analysis and stay ahead of the aircraft and safe.  In the years to come, we will continue to release new version of the application to help our customers enjoy their TBM experience.

Our thanks to Nicolas for taking the time to speak with us at the start of a very busy NBAA show last month.  All of us who care about this industry are fortunate that talented executives like Nicolas have chosen to bring their energy, passion, skills, and experience to Daher and the TBM and now the Kodiak aircraft programs.

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