May 2009 —TBM’s Hercules is a big hit with fans attending the Madera, California, airshow. It was not only the largest aircraft at the airshow, it was the only aircraft there visitors were allowed free access to walk through the cargo compartment and visit the flight deck where TBM crewmembers were stationed to answer questions and explain the operation of the venerable C-130. Those large wings also provided shade to many fans who found refuge to sit and watch the fly overs on that very sunny weekend.
Summer 2009—TBM completes a highly success 18-month test and evaluation program with ASB Avionics of Mojave, California, to develop a digital autopilot system for retrofit on civilian L-382 Hercules aircraft to replace their increasingly unsupportable analog systems. The program saw TBM’s 57-466 outfitted with a Honeywell glass cockpit and Flight Management System to couple to the new autopilot, followed by months of rigorous flight testing to develop software to model proper handling characteristics, culminating in the successful demonstration of the autopilot on an actual L-382 to meet FAA requirements for granting it an STC.
October 2009—TBM’s “glass cockpit” 1957 A-model Hercules attends the Airshow at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Parked near the California Air National Guard’s new C-130J, the TBM crew and aircraft were able to give airshow visitors a first-hand look at over 50 years of aviation history and the evolution of the legendary Hercules. Is it true that when the last J-model goes to the bone yard, the crew will be picked up and flown home in a trusty C-130A?