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Some planes are simply misunderstood no matter what direction they’re approached from. That is, no matter what kind of pilot experience or aircraft ownership background the person has, they don’t seem to get what the plane is all about, that is, until they fly it. Even though it’s been around for more than a decade now, the Quest Kodiak is one such airplane. I’d go even further and add that once you do fly it, you’ll appreciate it in ways you hadn’t even imagined. So here’s your spoiler alert. I love this plane. Here’s why.
The Kodiak, which was delivered type certificated in the United States in 2007, and its identity was caught up in the fact that it was designed expressly for work in the mission field, in the mountains of Equator, the jungles of the Philippines, the deserts of East Asia, places where the qualities most in demand are reliability, versatility, carrying capability, ease of maintenance and dependability. The Kodiak was designed to be all those things, and Quest succeeded.
The plane is an all-metal, tricycle gear high-wing turboprop with the ability to seat 10. It has a big back door with a minimalist airstair built in for loading passengers or pax and baggage or just a lot of cargo. Years ago Plane & Pilot did a story on the Kodiak where we took along a couple of dirt bikes in back for a day of fun in the wilds. There’s lots of room, and with a useful load of better than 3,500 pounds, depending on configuration and with the ability to quickly pull back seats as needed, it’s an incredibly versatile machine, just as planned.
The new model isn’t really a new model at all but rather a new packaging for a greatly evolved airplane that does feature one huge improvement, the addition of Garmin’s G1000 NXi avionics suite and all of the safety of flight enhancements that entails. NXi gives you Garmin’s new Vertical Situation Display, which shows a graphical representation of where you are in relation to the terrain and obstacles, making it easier to miss that stuff but also allowing a quick look way to plan the best route though terrain when you’re in and among the rocks. This is nice always but especially so when you’re doing the kind of flying the Kodiak was made for. There’s also integrated graphical weight and balance utility on the MFD (and don’t we all wish that were a feature of every plane we ever flew?) Another really cool feature for bush pilots and the rest of us, too, is Garmin’s Visual Approach utility, which let’s the pilot home brew an approach with a 3-degree descent path the autopilot will fly and a pilot selected descent altitude, all of which is wonderful potentially life saving stuff when you’re talking mountainous terrain and dark of night conditions.
Another cool option is the Garmin color GWX-70 radar, which deserves its own story, and features four-color storm cell tracking with vertical scanning, pitch and roll stabilization, side-view scanning, storm tops, and the ability to suss out suspicious areas of weather that are attenuated by closer-in cells. Also new on the Series II airplane is Garmin’s Flight Steam 510 for uploading and updating your flight plan and flight data wirelessly, a new inset map in the HSI on the PFD, something that sounds like glitz until you use it…then you want it, and SurfaceWatch for doing the toughest navigation a lot of us do, from taxiway to taxiway around the airport’s ground infrastructure.
Quest also has gotten rid of analog gauges on the Series II plane, using the excellent L-3 ESI-500 as the standard standby instrument. Also, on the glare shield is the SafeFlight ARINC 429 Angle of Attack indicator, which makes nailing the optimum angle of attack for short-field work a piece of cake.
But more than that, the Kodiak Series II packages a number of new improvements and ones that Quest incorporated into the airplane over the years without making a big deal out of it, including a number of interior refinements that make the Kodiak not only a powerful backcountry beast but a surprisingly refined one, as well. There’s improved cockpit storage, built-in oxygen with headset mounted cannulas and an optional O2 conserver and a pair of Bose A20 headsets with ship’s power plugs as standard.
There are also a few different data recorder options for operators who need the devices as part of their rules of the road or for those who simply want the additional peace of mind they offer.
One really cool option that wasn’t on the airplane I flew is single-point refueling with build-in computerized fueling management. Single-point fueling makes adding Jet-A easy and fast, but it’s more than that too. Mark mentioned that he occasionally will go into an airport where Jet-A is available only though single-point service.
Other cabin enhancements include a new wing root fairing seals to more effectively keep outside air outside, an improved cargo door step mechanism for better ease of use and noise reduction, better fitting sun visors and a number of new branding features, like leather wrapped yokes and a big “Kodiak” on the tail that have nothing to do with flyability and a lot to do with making a statement. Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t want to show off their cool ride?
Additionally, the Kodiak I flew, a 2018 model fresh off the production line, was outfitted with big tires, the Timberline interior, a TKS FIKI approved anti-icing system with enough capacity for two and a half hours of flight in moderate icing conditions.
Flying the Kodiak
Ice was not at issue when I flew the Kodiak on a beautiful hot early summer day the other week. Mark Brown from Quest and fellow Cessna 195 fanatic, brought the Kodiak to Redbird Skyport in San Marcos, Texas, to show it off to me. I’ve got a dozen or so hours in the Kodiak over the years, so I was pretty familiar with it, but Mark has lived with the airplane for a few years now and he knows it inside and out and talked me through a terrific demo ride that left me with lots more in depth knowledge of the bird.
Up front is a Pratt & Whitney PT-6A-34 putting out 750-hp (700 continuous) for an airplane with a 7,305-pound ramp weight. With that kind of power, even at max takeoff weight under standard conditions, the Kodiak needs less than a thousand feet of runway to get flying, and it can get down and stopped in even less room than that. And its max rate of climb is great, too, 1,371 fpm, which is much appreciated when the granite around is climbing fast, too.
If you’ve never flown a Kodiak, think of it as a big Cessna 182 that carries ten people and has slow-flight manners better than most light aircraft. Even the preflight and start is easy, with a graphical weight and balance utility, easy start sequence and all of the info you need right there on the displays in front of you color coded for ease of interpretation.
Takeoff is fun. Acceleration is brisk and before you know it, you’re at a rotation speed of just 55 knots and airborne—just remember, you can’t “drive” 55, because by then you’ll be flying. We were light and used almost no runway, maybe 600 feet or so, before we were off, and our rate of climb was around 1,500 fpm even adding a few knots for better forward visibility.
We flew out to a Central Texas airport, Llano Municipal, famous for its friendly service and proximity to Cooper’s Barbeque, the best in the world, some say. Llano also has a grass runway, and we did a bunch of landings and takeoffs there, while I got reacquainted with the big bird. With the big tires and the slow landing speeds of the Kodiak—it approaches at speeds similar to a Cirrus, an airplane that weights half what a Kodiak does—the landings were fun but completely unremarkable, as though the plane were saying, “Is that the best you got?”
After some lunch and fighting off a food coma, we took off, did a few more circuits and then headed off for some air work. I have to say that Mark’s demonstration of the Kodiak’s slow flight capability opened my eyes. The plane has a cuffed leading edge that does wonders, keeping the tips, says Brown, from stalling even when the stick is pulled all the way back. Mark demonstrated, and then I tried my hand at it. It is indeed remarkable. Even with the stick all the way back and the stall warning horn blaring away, you can make turns in either direction without a hint of loss of control, all the while mushing downward at a very slow rate of descent. That, Brown said, is the Kodiak’s version of a parachute, except the rate of descent in this bird was a lot slower. We didn’t test out that technique, however.
The Kodiak isn’t a fast bird, but it’s fast enough, about 175 knots at 48 gph and 135 at just over 30 gph. It’s a remarkably easy plane to fly and a remarkably easy plane to fly well. Kodiak’s are selling well, and one can see why. It’s a rugged plane that can be outfitted as one wishes—even with full amphibious floats—and that will go just about anywhere and do it dependably and economically. It’s a pretty good formula for success, and it’s one Quest has been following for years. Only now, it’s with an airplane that’s a lot slicker and even more refined.