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Mission Log: KODIAK Arrives in the Highlands on PNG

Friday, September 25, 2009…After 6 days of flying and well over 9,000 miles in the air, the first KODIAK to go to work in overseas service with a humanitarian organization, flared and then settled lightly onto the dirt strip of its new home half a world away.

The crowd that gathered at this small strip in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (Ukarumpa mission station is JAARS home base for KODIAK s/n 008) had been eagerly anticipating this arrival for years. The welcome celebration was a fitting tribute to the fact that the day we have all waited for has come. What a homecoming!

The ferry flight began September 19 when, with ink still drying on the final FAA paperwork, KODIAK 008 began a few short hops, less than a thousand miles each, over the mainland United States.

On September 21 the real adventure began when JAARS pilot Steve Ottaviano and co-pilot Brian Stoltzfus climbed into the cockpit in Santa Maria, California. With a special permit from the FAA KODIAK 008 was 30% over normal takeoff weight when it lifted off the tarmac, gently banked west, and headed out over the blue expanse of Pacific Ocean.

2,447 miles and almost 14 hours later the team set down in Honolulu, just an hour after sunset.

By September 22, KODIAK 008 had flown the second major leg of the journey and arrived in the Marshall Islands after 12:16 hours in the air. And by September 23, they were on the ground in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

That’s KODIAK reliability, range and comfort in action. And, for those of us in Sandpoint, it is exciting to see this reality translated from blueprints and spec-sheets into real world adventure. We’ve enjoyed following the JAARS Flight Blog and Steve Ottaviano’s personal blog as the journey progressed. Here’s our favorite line so far. Steve describes the arrival at Marshall Islands at the end of a 2200 mile leg, simply:

”The monsoon weather was a bit of a challenge, but the KODIAK’s equipment and performance made the arrival in Majuro very manageable.” From our perspective, that’s Pulitzer-worthy writing.

Of course, every KODIAK can do that. But the practical business of getting one to do it that far beyond the white breakers did necessitate some modification. In this case, the JAARS KODIAK was fitted with an auxiliary fuel tank in the cabin that doubled the aircraft’s range. Which brings up another point. Thirteen hours is a lot of flying to do in one sitting, so we weren’t surprised to learn that the overall trip of about 50 hours and 9,200 miles was planned to take about 10 days (to accommodate for rest and weather). The surprise was that it ended up taking 6.

You can (at least for the next few weeks) take a look at some of the JAARS KODIAK ferry flight history at JAARS Flight Blog. Honestly, we can’t get enough of it. There are a lot of folks here in Sandpoint walking around like proud parents. What can we say? Our kid has grown up and set out to make good in the world.

It’s a real rite of passage moment. Godspeed, N498KQ. We’ll be watching…and we’ll be here if you ever need us.