RCMP buys Quest plane

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SANDPOINT — Quest Aircraft’s flagship Kodiak airplane has reached remote corners of the globe, but now a model has arrived in a country a little closer to home — Canada.

After a lengthy period of preparation and paperwork, company officials completed delivery of a Kodiak to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on March 29. The completed sale marks the first time the Bonner County company has conducted business with the famous police organization.

“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are what we call a marquee account,” Quest President and CEO Paul Schaller said. “Everyone knows who they are and what they do.”

The RCMP settled on Quest’s Kodiak after searching for an aircraft that could handle a diverse workload. Police officials required the plane to undertake aerial surveillance, border monitoring, rescue operations and general law enforcement work. Based on those specifications, they needed a craft that could stay in the air for long periods of time, take off and land in short distances of rough terrain and featured a roll-up door for supply drops and floaters for water landings.

The Kodiak met all requirements except for the floaters.

“Floaters were probably the biggest thing they asked for,” Schaller said.

Not to be deterred, Quest officials coordinated with a company in Minnesota to add floaters on an existing Kodiak model. They flew the aircraft to the company’s headquarters, whose workers added on the floaters and a fresh coat of paint to boot.

Next, Quest employees had to manage the mountain of paperwork required by both countries. The craft had to be certified by the Canadian government in order to land in Vancouver, while the plane required approval by the U.S. as a legally valid export.

“There were all sorts of specifications we had to adhere to,” Schaller said. “For example, Canada couldn’t be a terrorist state.”

Schaller said that while paperwork phase of the arrangement was dense and complicated, past experience made the process less daunting. The company had already delivered aircraft to South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and was recently certified to deal in Australia.

“The Kodiak works best in areas where the populations are the lowest and the terrain is open and expansive,” Schaller said. “And that’s where a lot of them end up.”

After delivering the Kodiak, floaters and all, to Vancouver, RCMP representatives conducted a test flight and gave final approval of the sale. According to Schaller, the fact that the RCMP handpicked Quest for its aircraft purchase is a real feather in the company’s cap.

“We’re very pleased that they decided to venture 60-some miles south of their border to buy a Kodiak from us,” he said. “After all, we’re almost in Canada.”

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