Have to land on 1,200 feet of gravel, an undulating field or a sloped hillside or corkscrew down into a small glacial lake? This is the airplane you need.
Have to land on 1,200 feet of gravel, an undulating field or a sloped hillside or corkscrew down into a small glacial lake? This is the airplane you need.

New Jet Preview: Quest Kodiak

A Land Rover that Flies!

“Other airplanes in this category are like panel trucks. We like to think of ours as a Land Rover,” says Lynn Thomas, vice president of Quest Aircraft. Thomas is talking about the company’s Kodiak turboprop single. While this rugged little beast has been around for a few years, 2014 marks the first time you can buy it with an executive interior. So now you can visit all those places airplanes seemingly just shouldn’t go—and do it in comfort. And that makes the Kodiak a candidate for review in these pages.

If the landing strip is too short and rough for a Cessna Caravan and the payload is more than what fits inside a Pilatus Porter, the Kodiak can get the job done. Have to land on 1,200 feet of gravel, an undulating field or a sloped hillside or corkscrew down into a small glacial lake (only with floats, please)? This is the airplane you need.

Even if you do none of these things, use only pavement and just want to feel incredibly safe, consider this airplane. Designed to meet the latest and most stringent crashworthiness standards and seemingly overbuilt at every turn, the Kodiak stalls slower than some primary trainers and is practically impossible to spin. Plus, it offers a Garmin G1000 glass-panel-avionics system with standard synthetic vision. That’s handy to have when you’re flying close to terrain in the middle of nowhere. About the only way to hurt yourself in this airplane is to get shot down. There are more than 100 out there and there have been only a few accidents, including one with fatalities. In all cases, the cause was pilot error.

The basic model will set you back $1.975 million. Add air conditioning, supplemental oxygen (the airplane isn’t pressurized), the underbelly cargo pod, the executive interior, anti-icing protection and some goodies in the avionics panel and you’re up around $2.4 million.

With the executive “Summit” interior, the Kodiak has room for five passengers (with one pilot); more utilitarian layouts accommodate eight to nine. You’re not going to confuse this with the inside of a Gulfstream. You have two color choices: beige and gray. Nevertheless, the cabin is comfortable and functional.

With the executive interior, you get reclining seats, some cabinetry and sidewall tables. The seats detach quickly, and you can load everything from 55-gallon drums to motorcycles through the giant left-hand aft cargo door (about four feet by four feet). Aft of the pilot seats, the Kodiak’s cabin yields an impressive 248 cubic feet of volume and you can get another 63 cubic feet with the optional cargo pod.

With full fuel, an average-equipped Kodiak can haul 1,160 pounds of payload 1,005 nautical miles with a 45-minute reserve. Most operators, though, make shorter hops, reducing the fuel load and increasing payload. With the tanks a bit less than half full (900 pounds), the airplane can carry 2,400 pounds of payload 350 nautical miles with 45 minutes’ reserve.

Adding floats will obviously reduce this number a tad and slow you down a few knots in the air. Traditional aluminum and lighter composite amphibious floats are available for the airplane.

Note that no matter which interior you choose you don’t get a lav. And that can be an issue because as it sips as little as 42 ­gallons an hour at a leisurely 180 knots, a flight in a Kodiak could last up to six hours, or more than eight if you throttle back a little. Better skip that coffee stop before your flight.

The Kodiak’s backstory is interesting. Designed to do humanitarian work, it was initially funded by international charity and mission groups that had traditionally relied on piston aircraft. However, with fuel for those engines becoming prohibitively expensive and scarce in places like Latin America and Africa, these groups needed an airplane that could burn jet fuel and get the living daylights beaten out of it.

Work formally began in 2001 and the aircraft was certified in 2007. Since then, it has been scattered to humanitarian hotspots across the globe as well as serving the needs of cargo haulers, skydiving clubs, law enforcement and private individuals.

Airplane salesmen can be forgiven for some enthusiastic hyperbole about their products but Quest’s Thomas isn’t exaggerating when he says the Kodiak is “so rugged that you don’t have things break and wear out.”

Consider the engine. The 750 shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 has a time-between-overhauls life of 4,000 hours, about 10 percent more than other members of this powerplant’s family. And you can extend that to 8,000 hours if you enroll the engine in a trend-monitoring program. (Trend monitoring is a predictive tool that uses a known set of engine parameters to predict the need for maintenance before a failure occurs.)

Thomas also claims that the Kodiak requires less maintenance per flight hour than some other popular single-engine turbine aircraft—about 20 minutes per flight hour based on the reported experience of Quest’s customers. This contributes to the model’s overall low direct operating costs of approximately $360 per hour. (Of course, yours will vary depending on how you use your airplane.) That amount—which includes fuel, oil and engine reserves—makes the Kodiak less expensive to operate than some piston-engine aircraft.

One reason is probably that there are simply fewer things to break on the airplane: it has fixed, as opposed to retractable, landing gear and, as noted earlier, the cabin is unpressurized. Also, the Kodiak was designed to work in the bush where resources are Spartan. The main landing gear is overbuilt with abuse in mind, the fuselage features double rivets just in case, and the rudder is massive. And still, with all this, the Kodiak can blast off from a 1,000-foot strip with a full load. Over and over.

Granted, not everyone needs this capability. Then again, you see a lot of SUVs driving around in cities. Sometimes, it’s nice just to know you can do something even if you realize you never will. 

Editor's Note: The text above has been revised from what appeared in print to reflect a correction regarding accident information.


2014 QUEST KODIAK AT A GLANCE

Base Price:  $1.975 million

Engine:  Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34, 750 shp

Avionics:  Garmin G1000

Seating: 1–10

Max cruise speed:  183 kt

Range:  1,132 nm* (*with full fuel and 1,400-pound payload (passengers and cargo))

Takeoff distance:  934 ft

Landing distance:  705 ft

Cabin:  height: 4 ft 9 in

              width: 4 ft 6 in

              length: 15 ft 10 in

              volume:  248 cu ft

Source: Quest Aircraft 


Mark Huber is a private pilot with experience in more than 50 aircraft models.

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