Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SUV With A Mission


Backcountry traveler or humanitarian hauler, Quest’s Kodiak does it all


The dirt strip at Magee (S77), near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, looks impossibly rough and short. To my citified eyes, the state-owned airstrip looks nothing like a place where I would want to land an airplane as large as the Quest Kodiak. Quest test pilot, Kenny Stidham, isn't even breaking a sweat, and is talking about the great fishing in the area as he dumps more flaps to slow the beast down and make it in over a huge hill.

All I can focus on, though, are the enormous trees on either side of the strip and the giant mountains that surround the backcountry strip like sentinels guarding a precious treasure. With the softest of thuds, the Kodiak meets the turf and come to a nimble stop with so much runway ahead that I'm embarrassed to have even worried about it. The Kodiak is completely at home.

If you're talking about humanitarian aviation and utility flying, it's only seconds before the Quest Kodiak enters the conversation. Probably the foremost aircraft of its kind, the Kodiak is equal parts cargo hauler, luxury passenger transporter and rough-field do-it-all. Eighty-four of the muscular turbo-props have been sold in 15 countries around the world. With the Quest factory in Sandpoint, Idaho, humming along at full production, the company has a winner here.

I have to confess that, before I came to Sandpoint, I wasn't all that familiar with the Kodiak.
Most of us don't really have the opportunity to rub elbows with a utility airplane like the Kodiak very much—at least not in Southern California. Walking around the factory, and later getting to know the Kodiak from the pilot's seat, I began to realize what an amazing and special aircraft it is.

On A Mission
When evaluating a unique airplane like the Kodiak, you have to get beyond the glossy brochures and marketing-speak used to sell the airplane to get to the true nature and heart of the company. The Kodiak seems to have been born from the very needs that it fulfills, and from the experience and ideas of those who conceived it, not from the need to turn a profit. The heart of Quest is the desire to accomplish a mission.

Visionaries Tom Hamilton and David Voetmann are responsible for bringing the Kodiak to life. Hamilton is an entrepreneur and aircraft designer well known for introducing the Glasair kitplanes to the world. Voetmann had 40 years of flying experience with humanitarian and relief organizations, flying Twin Otters supplying food and grain across the harsh bush land of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The two met in 1985 and began planning and designing, launching "Idaho Air Group" in 1998, planting the seeds of Quest Aircraft.

From the beginning, Quest has been a different kind of aircraft manufacturer. The idea for the Kodiak was to create a new-generation aircraft to serve both humanitarian and backcountry commercial aviation needs. Along with a group of early supporters, Hamilton and Voetmann went out in search of funding.



Labels: Aircraft

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