Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SUV With A Mission

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

In May 2001, the company was officially launched with Bruce Kennedy, retired CEO of Alaska Airlines, as Quest's Founding Chairman. The company was built on a unique model: Profits from sales of the Kodiak would subsidize roughly every tenth airplane produced. That aircraft would then be delivered to a participating not-for-profit humanitarian organization.

Quest has kept true to that ideal, and much of the company's character is imbued with this altruistic sense of purpose. Even the workers on the assembly line have a different attitude. There's a joy there, and I would guess it comes from knowing that the aircraft they're riveting, wiring and painting are doing good around the world.

Examine organizations like Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in Kalimantan, Indonesia, or Mercy Air in Mozambique, and leading the charge is the noble Kodiak.

Whether it's hauling full sheets of plywood to rebuild structures, bags of cement to build schools and homes, or 55-gallon drums of fuel to heat villages, the Kodiak is right there: 7,305 pounds of airplane and cargo that can land in 700 feet on just about any surface.

Of course, the truth is that not all Kodiaks are flown to build orphanages or feed villagers. Plenty of people with enough resources use the Kodiak as the superlative family wagon and vacation transporter. The 10-place airplane is as much at home on floats as it is on tires, and its unique flight characteristics make it ideal for personal use.

If you can afford the $1.775 million price tag, the Kodiak is the perfect family airplane. If you can't picture the sleek-nosed beauty kissing the aquamarine waters of a Bahamian island and taxiing up to your private dock for a week's immersion in paradise, then you have no imagination. In fact, if you peruse the colorful travel brochures of the world's most exotic vacation destinations, chances are you'll spot a Kodiak.

Into The Backcountry
For our adventure, we take the Quest Kodiak to some real backcountry strips, courtesy of Northern Idaho. This part of the country is known for the best mountain flying outside of Alaska, and its picturesque mountain meadows and craggy granite peaks hide some pretty rough airstrips that require real skill to get into and out of. To make it authentic, we take a real-life camping trip: five adults, two Honda CRF 230 and 250 dirt bikes, tents, sleeping bags, multiple coolers, hammocks, chairs, dual sets of camera gear, full off-road riding gear, camping supplies, gasoline for the motorcycles and enough fuel to allow us a good four hours' flight time.

Labels: Aircraft


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