by Douglas Royce, Forecast International
Japan’s Setouchi Holdings is buying Quest Aircraft, the maker of the Kodiak single-engine turboprop. The new deal will provide an influx of capital to Quest to allow it to explore adding another aircraft to its product line.
The Kodiak competes primarily against Cessna’s Caravan and Pilatus’ PC-6. Quest has never publicly indicated what kind of new aircraft it might add in the future, and it’s hard to find an unoccupied niche in the General Aviation segment these days. A twin-engine model is one possibility, allowing it to steal customers away from the popular Beechcraft King Air family, but developing an all-new aircraft is a long, expensive, and financially risky process.
It’s possible the company could be looking at reviving an out-of-production aircraft and updating it with new engines and avionics. Viking Aircraft took this route with its Twin Otter 400 program. The Twin Otter is a specialized bush plane that offers a combination of short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability and payload that no modern production aircraft can match. Viking has delivered more than 50 new-build Twin Otters since restarting production of the aircraft. It spent far less to certificate the new version of an old design than it would have spent developing an all-new aircraft.