Built for Brawn, KODIAK Handles Backcountry More Like Cheetah
It was the kind of day I'd grown accustomed to after flying for 30 years in the region: 25 miles visibility with broken cumulous clouds at 7,000 and light winds from the southwest.
But for a moment there, when Kelly Mahon, Quest Aircraft's head of marketing, went to maximum power, released the brakes and ripped us off the ground in not much over 200 feet, I was no longer anywhere near Sandpoint, Idaho's beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. I was somewhere in my 20s, with a cornflower Texas sky over my head, back in basic training with U.S. Air Force. I haven't felt that kind of acceleration since my first ride in the T-38 Talon when the IP lit both afterburners and pointed the ship skyward.
But unlike my T-38, this aircraft is comfortable, roomy and has a great view. The high wing is located above and well aft of the cockpit, which affords a view that will take in about 130 to140 degrees either side of the longitudinal axis. When I fly, I like to sit a bit high with a good view over the nose, and the Kodiak didn't disappoint. Comfortable leather seats and a noise-cancelling headset made for pure enjoyment during the flight. Ground handling and taxiing were very easy with the nose gear steering and with differential brakes, the aircraft can pivot on a dime.
The spec sheet advertises a ground roll of 700 feet but with 20 degrees of laps and a takeoff weight of 5,300 pounds, we didn't use half that much runway. Without using all the torque that the 750 hp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 can produce, we were airborne in a touch under 300 feet and 25 seconds later were in a 90 KIAS climb, 2000 feet above Sandpoint (4,100 AGL) and looking at 2,700 fpm on the VSI. This airplane is built to fly and gain altitude in a short time and space. At 6,500 feet, Mahon brought back the power, dropped 20 degrees of flaps and we were looking at 70 KIAS. Here Mahon extended full flaps, and I flew the aircraft at 55 KIAS. At this speed the aircraft was very stable. Gentle turns left and right were easily done with 18 degrees of bank giving us a standard rate turn. Visibility was still excellent as the flaps allow the nose to pitch down to a very comfortable altitude. From slow flight, we moved on to stalls of both the “power on” and “power off” variety.
Our first stall was typical, with the right wing dropping just after the break. I brought the wing up with left rudder. On the second stall, with same bit of right wing drop, I used aileron to recover the aileron was just as effective as the rudder. There was no tendency for the wing to drop any further and no hint that a spin might be in our future.
With flaps still fully extended, Mahon asked me to push the airspeed to 90 KIAS. The power was still back. I pushed the nose over and saw the airspeed increase to about 65. I pushed some more, to 78, but Mahon still wanted 90 and now he wanted a turn. So I pushed more and over we went, to what looked close to vertical. Man, did we drop!
Ninety knots with 30 degrees bank and little power had us looking at a stabilized decent of 3,000 fpm. Mahon smiled and said with the Kodiak he could descend inside the cone of a volcano. Losing altitude quickly in the Kodiak was not a problem.
We found a mowed grass strip where the first 1,000 feet was located between 50-foot trees. From 2,000-foot AGL, I had to ask if there was enough room for the Kodiak wings. With a wingspan only slightly longer than the Skylane, he assured there was plenty of room. Mahon set us up for a left hand pattern and pointed out that the trees at the approach end provide an honest 50-foot obstacle, not including the one old-timer that poked up another 25 feet.
Even without reverse pitch, we were stopped well before we were out of the tree lane and well under 1,000 feet. With reverse pitch, ground rolls of under 500 feet – probably much less – will be a piece of cake. I asked Mahon if this strip was typical of backcountry strips in Alaska. He said that this field was likely more challenging that the typical runway. We made a 180-degree turn (almost but not quite pivoting on the right main) and taxied back for another demonstration of the Kodiak's capabilities.
From application of power it was probably not more than 350 feet to takeoff. By the time we reached the mid-point f this 2,000 grass strip, we had easily cleared what would have been a 250-foot obstacle. That's right: A 250-foot obstacle after just 1,000 feet of runway! We climbed back to 6,000 feet to test the stability at cruise, then performed steep turns at both 45 and 60 degrees. Roll was very responsive and the Kodiak was stable in a turn. Very little rudder was required to correct adverse yaw. In fact, I found my feet flat on the floor most of the time. With very little coaxing the Kodiak maintains bank in a turn very well. Even at 60 degrees of bank, it was not at all difficult to maintain bank angle and altitude.
We made a short field landing from a turning final to runway 19 and again, using the reversing capability of the four-bladed prop, came to a quick stop on the pavement with little worry of picking up rocks (the prop has a 19-inch clearance), Mahon advanced the throttle to max power, released the brakes, and we were off the ground in not much over 200 feet. And, we weren't even flying in ground effect but flying and climbing and accelerating all at the same time. Mahon pointed out that this maneuver demonstrated the fact that the Kodiak has the capability of getting into and out of a field in less than 800 feet!
With this demonstration I wished I were 35 years younger and ready to start my life as an aviator all over again. Given the capabilities of the Kodiak, I would not remain in the lower 48.
(John Miller is a CFII in Spokane, WA, with 4,400 hours total flying time. A Vietnam veteran and pilot, Miller's experience includes various military trainers and the C-123 and C-141. His civilian aviation credentials include single and multi-engine land, sailplanes, gliders and time in B-737 simulator. He is married with three children.)
Sidebar: Get more than you give
If you're not in the market for a new airplane, but still want to help Quest Aircraft in their development and humanitarian relief efforts, you can. Quest has two not-for-profit foundations setup to accept contributions – Quest Humanitarian Aircraft Fund and Quest Aircraft Charitable Fund. According to Quest CEO, Paul Schaller, “We accept contributions large or small, from $10 to $1 million. We're grateful for all of the help and to all the people who want to get involved.” Learn more about making a contribution at www.questaircraft.com or by calling Quest Aircraft at (208) 263-1111.
Twin & Turbine, August 2005, p14-15
END OF ARTICLE