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Mission Log: Welcome to a Different Approach

Friday, June 24, 2011...Certain challenges require a different approach.

Sitting at home, or at the office, in the comfort of a familiar routine, it can be hard to imagine the kind of heavy lifting that KODIAKs are doing out in remote places where nothing is comfortable or familiar. Today KODIAKs are deployed into some of the most demanding environments on the planet. In more than 10 countries around the world, they are tasked with missions that require landing in places that comfort never imagined.

Take the Long Metun airstrip (pictured above) in the isolated Apo Kayan region of East Kalimantan, Indonesia...for example. Imagine sticking a landing on a narrow rutted 365 meter strip of red dirt, knowing that the 3% slope in the touchdown zone rises almost immediately to a 23% pitch. Dave Forney recalls landing at Long Metun and thinking, "Welcome to the big leagues." And that was back when he was flying a 206.

Dave is an MAF pilot based out of Tarakan, Kal-Tim, Indonesia. "Our MAF Kalimantan program took delivery of the first KODIAK to enter Indonesia and it was deployed back in April, 2010." It waded right into the sweltering hard work bush pilots perform day in and day out. And now, with years of experience in piston aircraft, Dave has been transitioning to the KODIAK for the past few months.

Part of his training took him stateside for a few weeks at the Spokane Turbine Center (STC) in Spokane, WA. "The first week was specifically about the PT6A Turbine engine that the KODIAK uses. It was an intense week of learning--like drinking from a fire hose of turbine engine theory, line maintenance, and operation." Additional instruction included specific classes on the Garmin G-1000 integrated avionics system found in the KODIAK. "For someone who's never flown a glass panel aircraft, this is like learning a whole new technical language and culture. I don't typically think of myself as an "old-school" pilot, but technology has dramatically advanced the look and feel of modern-day aircraft cockpits and the KODIAK is a great example." While at STC he also spent extensive time flying the full-motion AATD KODIAK, which is a full KODIAK cockpit built into a 3-axis-motion simulator.

By the middle of March Dave was back home in the tropics where in-country training progressed well. "After several days of local training flights, we spent several days doing operational flights interior."

"Here I am up at 19,000 feet learning all about how to use the oxygen system...just in case. We rarely go above 12,500 feet in normal operations."

Finally, just this last month, Dave was set free.

"Saturday was my first solo day. I flew nearly 800 nautical miles to eight different locations, carrying 23 passengers and about 2,300 pounds of supplies. It's hard to imagine how much time and blood and sweat this saved."

"Some of the things that look normal in this plane well, it just isn't normal for most planes...and maybe some trucks. It's amazing to see how much stuff the KODIAK can carry."

"I recently ran a bunch of medical supplies up to Mahak Baru. We had everything from medicine cabinets, desks and chairs, to stretchers, wash basins and thousands of syringes stuffed inside -- everything to furnish a small overnight clinic."

"On Friday it was pretty muddy in the turn-around area at the top of the Data Dian airstrip."

"Actually it's more like clay, and it sticks to your tires and shoes and everything it touches! When you fly in the bush little things like this strain other aircraft...the KODIAK hardly notices."

"Around mid-June, if all goes well, I'll be able to take the KODIAK out to those strips that I've flown in and out of so many times in the Cessna 206 over the past couple of years, only now I'll be carrying nearly twice the load!"

"Eventually, our program will get several more KODIAKs, which will replace most of our smaller Cessna 206's."

"As you can see, the folks interior are very excited to see this new shiny airplane!"

We formed Quest Aircraft with a passionate commitment to a clear vision: Build a brand new clean sheet aircraft with modern STOL design for high-performance backcountry applications. An airplane that thrives in the most inhospitable places on earth. While we realize you may not be servicing locations quite like this, your mission may not take you to places this remote or demanding, we also know that when you’re flying a KODIAK, the impossible can become routine. KODIAKs, and those of you who fly them, are making these places a little more comfortable.

With proper training, experience, and situational awareness, the KODIAK will haul itself plus cargo nearly its own weight, safely, and with comfortable margins, into and out of just about anywhere. We build it for that purpose -- to live hard and free, burning Jet-A at 140 knots for more than 1,000 nautical miles at a time without complaint.

Words, specs, and blueprints are one thing. Actions are another. Transition into KODIAK and before you know it you’ll be doing things you never imagined. All it takes is a different approach.
Dave, all of us at Quest are honored to be a part of the work that you and MAF do every day. Thank you for sharing your story and your amazing photographs. We are looking forward to hearing more from you in the months and years ahead as you and the Kalimantan team put the KODIAK through its paces. Godspeed in your adventures to come.

To see clips of the KODIAK in action check out this video by Dave and MAF colleague Paul College.

Catch Dave’s log on A Day in the Life of the KODIAK.