Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SUV With A Mission


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


But the Kodiak is a workhorse, and it has all the tools that make it one of the best out there. TKS ice protection is a useful option, with titanium porous panels on the wing leading edges that weep a mixture of glycol and alcohol. A 16.3- gallon fluid reservoir and redundant pumps give the Kodiak true all-weather capability. Kodiak's STOL performance comes courtesy of its discontinuous leading edge technology that brings remarkable control at slow speeds. It's unnerving to see a Vso speed on such a heavy airplane at around 60 knots, but it handles just fine at those speeds. All in all, the Kodiak is a docile and well-behaved airplane, even loaded to the gills.

The main reason you buy a Kodiak, of course, is its hauling capacity. The airplane's 248-cubic-feet cargo area, along with the optional 63-cubic-feet belly pod, offers over 300 cubic feet of space to carry just about anything you can fit into it. The Kodiak is even equipped with a special tail stand that you mount when loading heavy weights so the tail doesn't hit the ground while loading. A useful load of 3,535 pounds is just that: useful.

Our adventure plane loaded with motorcycles and people, we head out for the backcountry. With us are Amber Phillips and Jon Barksdale, two Quest factory employees who are also expert dirt bike riders who could do some riding for our cameras. They know these airframes better than anybody and sometimes get to ride in the aircraft they build.

Pushing the dirt bikes up the loading ramp into the Kodiak, Phillips explained, "Oh, this airplane can haul a lot more than this," she smiled, "A lot more." Like everybody we met at Quest, she and Barksdale seemed to love their jobs. "We get to build these airplanes," remarked Phillips." That's pretty cool."

Bouncing around in the mountain-induced turbulence and making our way into Magee, I hardly noticed the Garmin G1000 panel in front of me. Here in the backcountry, it seemed somehow out of place. Stidham reminded me of the varied missions this airplane fulfills; from search-and-rescue to loading skydivers. "It's made for humanitarian missions," Stidham explained, "but it does everything you can think of, and buyers configure it in all different ways."

Although it's made for rough environments, the Kodiak uses technology to enhance safety. In addition to the aircraft's FIKI certification (with the anti-ice option), the G1000's Synthetic Vision option brings unprecedented situational awareness to the cockpit—especially in mountainous environments. On the same front, Garmin's GTS 800 TAS and TCAS system can be fully integrated into the Kodiak's G1000 panel along with efficiency add-ons like Jeppesen's ChartView to get rid of paper from the cockpit. Digital color radar is another option via Garmin's GWX68 real-time weather radar, and to keep track of the really nasty stuff, StormScope can be added into the Kodiak's panel. Because of the airplane's multiuse mission profile, the ability to add technology is essential to its success.

Once at the Magee airstrip, we really did set up the gear and play for a bit. Phillips and Barksdale put the motorcycles through their paces while Stidham flew several sorties for our cameras, always touching down in precisely the right place. The soft breeze with just a hint of fall in it whispered through the tall Douglas fir, Phillips even taking over the hammock for a time. Looking out at the Kodiak against a field of columbine flowers I knew that, at that moment, in some remote corner of the world, a Kodiak was working hard helping somebody.



Labels: Aircraft

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