The Tampico TB-9 is the entry-level model in Aerospatiale's Caribbean series of piston singles which includes the TB-10 Tobago, TB-20 Trinidad, and turbo-charged TB-21 Trinidad TC. It was introduced in Europe in 1979 as a lower cost alternative to the Tobago, but didn't appear in the United States until 1985; since then, about 300 have been sold in the US . With good headroom and visibility, the Tampico is often used as a primary and instrument trainer. It was originally certified with a climb prop, but supplemental type certificates allow the aircraft to operate with a cruise prop if desired. The Tampico Club is the trainer version which has similar operating characteristics. To minimize maintenance delays of a foreign aircraft producer, Aerospatiale developed a parts-support department in Grand Prairie, Texas. Most of the Tampico's components (over 80%) are built in the United States.
The standard Tampico has a 160-hp Lycoming 0-320 and a Sensenich fixed pitch climb or cruise propeller and wheelpants. The Tampico Club is similar in design but has a more spartan interior, no wheelpants and a climb propeller only. The Club is also lighter, which helps to improve takeoff and cruise performance. The Tampico includes fabric covered front bucket seats that two pilot reports called 'comfortable', and large windows that extend over the top of the fuselage and down the sides to the elbow level, allowing a better than average outside view compared to similar aircraft. Cabin entry is via two gull wing doors located on either side of the cockpit. Pilot reports judged the circuit breaker panel, located at knee level, difficult to check, and complained about visibility over the Tampico's long nose during a best-climb-rate pitch attitude. Plane & Pilot Magazine reports that the slotted flap system utilized on the Tampico helps to simplify landings and reduce the stalling speed. At full flap deflection, the stall speed is decreased by eight knots. Aerospatiale's fleet of single engine aircraft were praised by AOPA Pilot Magazine for convenient cockpit layout, but noted that the similarity of the vertical engine and fuel gauges at the top center of the instrument panel makes it initially difficult to quickly distinguish among them. The center section of the instrument panel contains the avionics stack, circuit breaker switches, engine controls, stabilator trim, fuel selector, and a hand-held microphone that extends down and then out between the two front seats at arm level, an arrangement reported 'convenient' and 'comfortable'. The fuel system includes two 21 gallon wing tanks, with 40 gallons of usable fuel, for about 3 - 4 hours of endurance. The basic models are delivered with day/night VFR equipment, with an optional IFR package available for approximately $15,400 more.
The Tampico is known to be a docile and comfortable aircraft. The control forces are heavy, giving a steady and solid feel to the aircraft. One drawback is the slow cruise speed, reported averaging 95-100 knots true compared to the book figure of 107 knots. Climb is reported as anywhere from 700-1000 fpm with the climb prop installed. The Tampico has a wide center of gravity limit allowing for a reasonable combination of passengers and baggage.