Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SUV With A Mission


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



Where The Kodiak Is Built

A quick peek into Quest's manufacturing plant in Sandpoint, Idaho, gives you the immediate feeling that you're looking at a healthy, thriving company. The 84,000-square-foot facility is set against a backdrop of towering mountains and verdant hillsides covered in pine forests, so it's unlike most aircraft factories.

Sandpoint is also the home of SilverWing Airpark (www.silverwingatsandpoint.com), a luxury development of hangar homes that has been rejuvenated by the FAA's recent ruling to allow "through-the- fence" agreements for homeowners. Sites are selling and the idyllic community is taking shape. It seems the whole area is teeming with life.

Next door to SilverWing, Kodiaks are being built on a humming assembly line that, on this day, has 13 aircraft in some stage of manufacturing. The Quest factory is a high-tech facility, employing the latest technology to create the special airplane that is the Kodiak. In one area, all the aircraft's parts are machine-dipped into vats of anti-corrosion compounds, while finished components await drying on special, rolling assemblies. Elsewhere, wiring harnesses are pre-made, while other workers route them through wings and fuselages like multicolored snakes.

At each stage, the airplane starts to take shape, and near the front of the factory, technicians install the Kodiak's Pratt & Whitney turboprop engine. Looking like giant grasshoppers in their green zinc-chromate base coat, the fully assembled Kodiaks will get their final paint schemes, then will be on their way to appreciative customers all over the world.

In the middle of the factory is a huge American flag—a reminder of our country's reputation as one of the manufacturing giants in the world. These Kodiaks are proudly made in the United States, and it's easy to see that pride is a thread that runs through the entire company. Everywhere, smiling workers are busy doing their jobs—something the community of Sandpoint is grateful to do. The Quest factory employs 176 workers. It's a testament to Quest that they offer public tours on Thursday afternoons that are so popular they require a reservation to attend. I can imagine every grade school teacher in the area must bring their classes on these tours to see how the unique Kodiak is built.

Although the company had its start in 2001, it wasn't until 2007 when the Kodiak received full FAA certification, and December of that year before the first airplanes were delivered. That makes Quest a young company in the aviation industry, and it continues to grow at an impressive pace. In December of 2012, Quest brought Samuel Hill on board as the new Chief Executive Officer. Hill is a veteran of Honda Aircraft Company and Embraer, among other companies, and he's an ATP-rated pilot with a lifetime of experience in the aviation world.

The airplane is, of course, popular throughout the world for its multi-mission role, and it has received 11 international certifications. Quest recently signed a deal with Blue Eagle Aviation in Beijing, China, for 12 Kodiaks—a move Quest hopes is just the beginning, since the Kodiak is an ideal aircraft for the emerging Chinese market.

Quest took the Kodiak on a tour of several South American countries as demand expands there. The company has also partnered with Northrop-Grumman in developing the Air Claw, based on the Kodiak aircraft platform and intended for government and private surveillance missions. For more information, visit www.questaircraft.com.




Labels: Aircraft

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