• Quest Kodiak. (Rob Fox)
    Quest Kodiak. (Rob Fox)
  • Quest Kodiak (Rob Fox)
    Quest Kodiak (Rob Fox)
  • Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)
    Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)
  • Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)
    Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)
  • Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)
    Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)
  • Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)
    Quest Kodiak. (Steve Hitchen)

– by Steve Hitchen

Aviation marketing departments will tell you the ideal aeroplane is one that goes fast, hauls heaps of cargo, carries passengers in comfort, can operate into the shortest and wildest strips known, has low operating costs, incredible range, is miserly on fuel and any mug pilot can make a good fist of flying it. In other words, a perfect aeroplane that will suit the needs of any operator regardless of who they're trying to sell it to.

That's when the aircraft designers step in and announce it can't be done; that if you want cargo then you have to sacrifice passenger comfort, if you want good performance on unimproved strips you have to forfeit speed.

But thanks largely to the surge toward turbo-prop aircraft, the designers themselves have been able to explode some of those myths, and the latest proof of that is the Quest Aircraft Kodiak 100. We're still not talking about the perfect aeroplane, but it is one step closer.

Introduced unashamedly to try to out-Caravan the Caravan, the Kodiak is a single-engine turbo-prop (SETP) that has short-field freight-hauler etched into its DNA: high-wing, slab sides, fixed undercart, belly pod, clamshell rear doors. The only oversight is that it doesn't come with a free fork-lift.

Australian Flying first met the Kodiak in Queensland when the first one arrived in Australia (Australian Flying September-October 2012), and to this date the aircraft we tested then is still the only one permanently based in this country. In March this year, a second one plied the eastern-state skies on a demo tour, stopping briefly at Moorabbin where those who knew the aircraft were initially taken aback with the executive interior.

Isn't this a Kodiak? Where do all the boxes go?

In the beginning

A camel, it is said, is a horse designed by a committee. The presumption in that little adage is that the committee members don't always want the same thing. When they do, the result can be something akin to a Kodiak.

Indeed, the Kodiak owes its existence to not one organisation, but 11: ten customers and a manufacturer keen to build an outstanding aircraft. According to Quest Aircraft Factory Demo Pilot and Marketing Director Mark Brown, there was one market sector that the all-conquering Cessna Caravan falls short of satisfying, leaving the door open for the Kodiak to walk in.

"The Caravan was never designed to operate off-airport, it was never great at getting off in a short distance and getting into tight strips in places like PNG and Indonesia," he points out.

"So 10 mission and humanitarian groups came together and said 'we need something that can get into all the strips that our C206s can get into, but has the same load capacity as the Caravan and runs on jet fuel'. So that's why the Kodiak was designed."

Behind the brave new concept were two visionaries that brought a lot of experience to the table: Tom Hamilton and Dave Voetman. Hamilton is best known as the man who developed the Glasair series of kit aeroplanes and Aerocet composite floats. Voetman spent 25 years flying missionary and humanitarian operations in Africa, logging 10,000 hours without an accident. These two had the goods to produce an aircraft neatly tailored for flying some of the most challenging missions in aviation.

So, really, is there any surprise the Kodiak 100 has a cavernous 7.02 cu. m of cargo space, will lift 1600 kg of pay load, has a take-off ground roll of only 285 m and a braked landing roll of 215 m, but will still cruise at 174 KTAS for over 1000 nm? You'd almost think it was made for the job...

The power behind the performance belongs to the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 turbine that brings 750 shp to the party. There was never a question that the Kodiak would have to be a turbo-prop; avgas has nearly reached "unobtainium" status in some places around the world, and missionary operators needed a way to secure fuel supplies. Tipping the balance in favour would have been the oodles of power produced by a turbine; just the ticket when you need to haul a mountain of kit off a runway that resembles a cricket pitch ... just not as flat.

Going up market

"The Kodiak does really well because it is extraordinarily beefy," says Brown when asked about operations on unimproved runways, "it was built with the harsh conditions of off-airport operations in mind. It was also designed around a pilot-mechanic, so it is very reliable, it doesn't break much, and it's simple so if something does break it's easily fixed.

"From that standpoint the whole aeroplane is rugged. Some compare it to a modern-day De Havilland Beaver. It has the same build quality as the old Beavers. You've heard the saying 'they don't build it like they used to'? Well, the Kodiak is how they used to built it. It was designed not to break."

Any aircraft with this capability is bound to attract interest from other operators as well, and part of Quest Aircraft's marketing strategy in Australia is to break the Kodiak out of its design box and exploit its strengths in operations other than the mountainous conditions of Indonesia and PNG.

"The Kodiak is the newest, the safest, the most versatile airplane on the market," Brown claims. "It can be used by an owner/operator, it can be used by a charter company, it can be used by a skydive company, it can be used for missionary and humanitarian use, for cargo use. We have operators who use them for all of the above!

"The beauty of it is that you can take the seats out and have a cargo carrier, and within 20 minutes you can put the seats back in and carry nine passengers."

That capability takes the Kodiak into a whole new stratosphere, and suddenly the freight-hauler designed to operate from mountain smudges transforms into a classy machine ready to transport people in relative comfort. According to Brown, Quest Aircraft has been tuning their aeroplane to make it an attractive proposition for Australia's high-fliers.

"What we've tried to do with the airplane over the years is refine it from the 'bush' approach we used initially," he says. "It was an extraordinary performer, but for the operator that's spending a couple of million dollars on the airplane, we wanted the smaller details, the whole package to be more refined. The changes in the airplane reflect that mindset; we want our customers to feel like every little piece has been thought about and engineered."

For Quest Aircraft, the transition from Land Rover to BMW meant giving the cabin a luxury make-over. The new Summit interior features club seating, reclining seats, arm rests, tables, cabinets, carpets, extra sound dampening and even coffee makers! The Summit represents one extreme of the interior options, with the standard trash-hauler configuration at the other end.

The new insides are swank enough to rival those of some $10 million executive jets and are clearly aimed at people who the industry describes as "high net-worth." But rather than trying to coerce the market into forsaking their jets, Quest and local agent Utility Air is taking a "why not have both" approach to selling the Kodiak.

There is some merit in the plan; executive jets are usually sold on range and altitude because that is generally where they perform best. Run them on short and low legs and the owners will bleed cash. With a Kodiak sitting alongside the Citation, owners can match the mission to the strength of each aircraft.

What does she go like?

When there are ridges to the right of you, escarpments to the left and you're stuck in the middle threading a valley, you don't want an aeroplane that needs an extraordinary amount of skill to handle; you want one that obeys your crisp commands instantly without question or hesitation. According to Brown, that's what the Kodiak is.

"Of all the airplanes that I've flown, it's the easiest to fly," he says with a grin. "I think it's easier to fly than a C172. It's safer and has a larger flight envelope, and it handles just beautifully. It was designed for harsh environments where you have to have almost sportscar-like handling to get into tight strips where you're flying on the edge of the envelope. So the Kodiak is unbelievably responsive, but docile all at the same time. A low-time pilot can get in this and fly it as easily as a high-time pilot can."

And at the same time it will put 1600 kg of payload on the spot when you need it. To put some perspective on it: that's nearly a whole fully-loaded Beech A36 Bonanza complete with wings full tanks and max payload, or 20 80-kg skydivers.

However, the Kodiak 100's max landing weight is 3034 kg, 250 kg down on the max take-off weight. On long legs when the PT6A will use a bit of avtur, that's not much of an issue, but it may concern some operators who customarily operate short first legs. The projected fuel consumption of 106 lph equates to 84 kg per hour, which in turn means the Kodiak has to fly for nearly three hours to get it back under the max landing weight again.

It's something Quest Aircraft has considered.

"Out of the factory, the Kodiak comes standard with smaller tyres, but has a lesser landing weight because of that," Brown explains.

"When you get the larger tyre, there are some more votex generators added to the tail that increase the landing weight to the same as the MTOW. Larger tyres are a $2-3000 option. If you're operating short legs of 100 nm or so, you won't burn off that much fuel, so an increase in landing weight will be an advantage, which you get with the large-tyre option."

And there's plenty of love in the design for pilots as well. The first thing that greets the eyes in the cockpit is the three screens of the Garmin 1000 avionics. The standard package is loaded with the must-haves for any turbo-prop today, with the bog-stock PFD and MFD functions further enhanced with synthetic vision and Terrain Avoidance and Warning System (TAWS).

The seats are Cadillac-comfortable and the position of the necessaries such as the condition and prop levers, trim wheel and flap switch mean there's not much in the way of reaching needed.

In its shop-floor state, the Kodiak is already a lot of aeroplane, but it doesn't end there, Flight into Known Icing (FIKI) packages can be added to the order form as can a belly cargo pod and air conditioning.

The rub

Quest's Kodiak 100 is often mistaken for a Cessna Caravan by people not in the know. Both are versatile SETPs that perform well as freighters, jump planes and people movers. The difference is that the Caravan had a 20-year head start on the Kodiak, and the also sported the inestimable value of the Cessna brand. The Kodiak is a great product from a proven pedigree, but still has some work to do to establish itself in Australia.

Steve Pembro from local agent Utility Air believes the Kodiak has the goods to start taking share away from the C208.

"We see Kodiak as a rugged alternative to our turbine competitors with excellent performance and range," Pembro explained. "Also as the next step up for a piston operator making the leap to turbines, with its ease of operation and versatility.

 "The  Kodiak is an ideal aircraft for the owner/operator that requires increased  STOL performance and an aircraft that is better suited to unsealed strips, combined with an incredibly sturdy undercarriage and airframe."

Obviously, the capability of the Kodiak has given its makers a great deal of confidence in the aircraft's future, and with certification now done for New Zealand and over 100 airframes operating around the world, it is time to see if Australia has really been waiting for an alternative to the Caravan.



13.71 m


10.42 m

Empty Weight

1710 kg

Max Takeoff Weight

3290 kg

Usable Fuel Capacity

1211 litres

Max Cruising Speed

183 KTAS

Certified Ceiling

25,000 feet

Rate of Climb @ SL

1371 fpm

Maximum Range

1132 nm

Take-off Ground Roll

285 m

Braked Landing Roll without reverse

215 m




Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34

Engine Power

Take-off 750 shp, continuous 700 shp

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