Pilot Review: Daher Kodiak 100
The cowboy's aircraft
Most aircraft are surprisingly delicate.
You could destroy a Cessna’s rudder by walking up to it and bending it with one hand. This is because every aircraft designer is in a war against weight, as every added pound of aluminum is paid for in takeoff distance, speed, fuel, and range.
One aircraft, though, seems unbreakable: the Daher Kodiak.
Even at its $3 million price tag, the Kodiak is not designed to be luxurious. The cabin feels almost unfinished and the cockpit is covered with exposed bolts and rivets. The pilot’s seat is awkardly hard. But if you want to fly like a cowboy, the Kodiak is your plane.
The first takeoff a pilot performs in the Kodiak is memorable, because it’s scary quick. If you’re the type that likes to ease the thrust lever forward gently, you might be off the ground by the time you reach takeoff power settings. The published takeoff roll for the Kodiak is just 934 feet, but on a cold day with a headwind, you can bring that number down by several hundred feet. This runway performance means that at larger airports, you might be close to traffic pattern altitude by the time you clear the end of the runway.
Once the PT-6 engine is at max takeoff power, things get super noisy. The aircraft is unpressurized, so the aircraft has plenty of loose-fitting seals and components which let the sound in. But again, this plane is made for doing things—not for relaxing in.
At cruise, the autopilot does an okay job of keeping things level. It’s not a smooth ride, but you probably could use some hand-flying practice anyway.
And landing the Kodiak ranks among one of the most addictive pastimes on the planet. The engine’s idle power output is unusually low, so when you pull the power back on the 96-inch Hartzell propeller, the plane drops like a rock. Combine this feature with a forward slip or some S-turns, and you can approach at what feels like a ten degree slope.
In the flare, add some power back in and then be careful as you ease back on the thrust, because just like in the approach, it will drop like a rock onto the runway if you’re not careful. When you do touch down, the 29-inch low-pressure tires mounted on the spring struts will make the landing “mushy”, if not smooth.
How to use the Kodiak
The Kodiak makes you feel like you’re in the sky—not on a plane. You’re in control. It’ll land on a bumpy field, or on an abandoned airport with dandelions growing through the pavement.
For cargo missions (or human/cargo missions if you want to put a bike or a dog kennel in the back), simply unclip the six or eight seats in the cabin and load your goods through the big door in the back. Once you’re done, reverting back to the standard cabin configuration takes just fifteen minutes.
The Kodiak was designed to impress pilots—not passengers. The result is a plane that can take you into places that much smaller planes can’t even reach. Nothing about the Kodiak is crisp, but nothing about it is lame either. Fly one.