Kodiak amphib
AIN editor Nigel Moll puts the float-approved turboprop through its paces on the Finger Lakes in Central New York. The amphib is in its element charging through chop on the water or in the air. (Photo: Nigel Moll)

Pilot Report: Quest Kodiak

This article originally appeared in our sister publication Aviation International News.

Quest Aircraft bills the Kodiak as the “next generation of STOL aircraft capable of bringing services and heavy supplies to the most remote regions on the planet,” and the Idaho-based manufacturer has delivered 200 since the sturdy turboprop single was certified in 2007.

“Third generation” would be accurate too, in that the Cessna Caravan dates to the early 1980s. The first generation would be the Pilatus Porter (340 hp)/Turbo Porter (550 shp) and Helio Courier (295 to 400 hp). In the context of the Kodiak, the Helio seems particularly noteworthy because both it and the Kodiak were designed originally to serve missionary pilots flying on and off short, narrow strips carved out of some of the harshest terrain on the planet. Indeed, the Kodiak’s 45-foot wingspan (seven feet shorter than the Caravan’s) was dictated by the 50-foot width of many strips carved out of jungle.

New Jet Preview: Quest Kodiak

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New Jet Preview: Quest Kodiak

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.

In the years since it was designed, the Kodiak has caught on with a market beyond the missionary mission but for the same reasons: short takeoff (less than 1,000 feet at maximum weight) and landing; an emphasis on safety not just by careful attention to aerodynamic and structural design but also in the choice of Garmin’s onboard systems; versatility in a roomy cabin; and the efficiency and reliability of a single PT6 turboprop in the nose for copious power on widely available jet fuel and range of 1,000 nautical miles with wheeled gear. For the general aviation market, Quest defines the Kodiak as the machine to satisfy the need for lift between a business jet—speedy but needy in the runway department—and a helicopter (land anywhere but complex and don’t plan on carrying a ton of bulky stuff).

This summer Quest launched the Kodiak amphibian on a North American tour. Flown by company marketing director and lead demo pilot Mark Brown, accompanied by his fiancĂ©e, FlightSafety instructor Ashley Atkinson, the airplane dropped by my home on Skaneateles Lake in Central New York. For Quest, the purpose of the stop here was twofold: demonstrate the airplane to this magazine for a pilot report and also to my good friend and neighbor Tony, who likes the look of the Kodiak as a possible replacement for not only his IO-720-powered Helio 800 amphib but also the “family Winnebago,” a PA-31-310 Navajo. The allure of one PT6 versus 20 cylinders is a powerful persuader. During a stint in the cabin of the Kodiak while Tony was in the left seat, I could almost see cogs turning in his mind as he contemplated the possibilities opened by the smooth whistling hum up front and the big screens delivering anything he could ever wish to know about the task at hand. The contrast with his mildly updated ’60s- and ’80s-vintage fleet was stark.