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Kodiak on Amphibs: The Next 50 Years for U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Friday, July 30, 2010…This morning we headed over to the Federal Pavilion for a press conference with the United States Department of Interior. As you can imagine, we gathered a rather diverse group as the crowd started to form.

AirVenture is full of photo opps and today’s will stay up on our wall for a very long time. Below, from left to right, we have Paul Schaller (President and CEO of Quest Aircraft), Paul Schmidt (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director for Migratory Birds), Charlie Wiplinger (Executive Vice President of Wipaire, Inc.), and Fred Roetker (long time U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot-biologist). (Note: also shown in the headline photo above is Aaron Sauer (Chair International Federal Partnership).)

With great pleasure Paul Schaller handed over the keys, representing 9 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) KODIAKs with newly installed Wipline 7000 floats, to Paul Schmidt.

Paul Schmidt wasted no time in turning those keys over to Fred Roetker saying, “Having the KODIAKs will provide a safer aircraft for our most precious resource, our pilots like Fred, to exercise their experienced skills.”

And those keys will likely stay with Fred for a very long time. He has worked for the department for over 26 years as a pilot-biologist and has logged 8,000+ hours flying for the Division of Migratory Bird Management. "Aviation has been a vital tool to wildlife management, especially in remote areas," explained Fred in a recent interview.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is tasked with tracking wildlife across the continent of North America. Every spring and summer for the past 50 years, highly trained and skilled teams of pilot-biologists have taken to the skies to survey North America's waterfowl breeding grounds. In order to get the job done they need to cover a lot of ground, flying more than 80,000 miles, crisscrossing the continent on missions that involve low-leveling flying into areas with no weather reporting stations, and climates and geographies that range from the high arctic regions of Alaska and Northern Canada through the United States and into Mexico and Central America. This reach is made possible through the cooperative effort of all these countries. And, as you might imagine, it means flying for weeks on end in some of the most unforgiving landscapes on the planet.

FWS operates approximately 60 aircraft, half of which are based in Alaska. But, "this aircraft", said Fred, "represents the Next 50 Years for the Department.” And he speaks from experience. Fred estimates he has logged 400+ hours in the KODIAK already. "The KODIAK has performed well," said Roetker. "The aircraft's range is a key factor." In spring and summer, FWS flies missions as far north as the Arctic Ocean. "It allows us to carry more people and equipment and with the features provided by the Garmin 1000 panel, such as advanced GPS, and information on terrain, traffic and fuel status, it significantly increases safety."

Fred, from all of us at Quest, we’d like to say thank you for your tireless dedication and the commitment of all those who work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve invaluable natural resources for present and future generations.

Of the 9 float equipped KODIAKs delivered, 4 will be going to Alaska and 5 will be based out of the lower 48. Now that these KODIAKs are headed out into service, we can’t wait to get reports from the field.