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Budget Buy: Socata TB9 TampicoBudget Buy: Socata TB9 Tampico

Looks fast but isn’t. C’est la vie

Pilot Briefing February 2020

What you really need to know about the French-built Socata TB–9 Tampico is that it was—in this country, at least—a training airplane built at the express request of flight schools, says Socata expert Andrew Knott, webmaster for the Socata TB Users Group. Perhaps 90 percent of the 52 Tampicos registered in the United States have 6,000 to 7,000 hours on the airframe and that, in turn, triggers airworthiness directives requiring structural inspections.

While it is not fast, this 105-knot, four-seat airplane is a great training airplane and time builder. That’s how former owner Joe Rushing of Texas used his. He found annual inspections were usually $1,200 to $1,400, but that first one was a doozy. He spent $6,900 getting repairs done that had accumulated because few Texas mechanics had experience with the foreign airplane. Then there was the need to upgrade to ADS-B Out. He added a few more avionics to reach the $6,900 total.

Other than the first-year surprise, Rushing found it a fun airplane to fly, forgiving when doing flight-training maneuvers and especially landings. Depending on the mission, he planned for true airspeeds of 95 to 110 knots. “It’s not real, real fast,” he said. “It looks fast on the ground.” He bought it for $40,000.

The aircraft design started out as a 180-horsepower, 120-knot Tobago, but was remade into a 160-horsepower Tampico to meet flight-school needs. Therefore, you have a 160-horsepower engine pulling the same fuselage originally designed for a 180-horsepower engine.

The aircraft got its TB designation from being built in Tarbes, France, although a TF designation would make more sense. Shane Schmidt, who manages a Tampico, calls it a “good” aircraft with a strange ignition key. It has dimples on the sides instead of teeth on the bottom like a good old American key. They do things differently in France.

For more information
See the Socata TB Users Group website ( Use their “Contact us” information to ask questions.

Alton Marsh

Alton K. Marsh

Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.

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