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Mon, Jul 26, 2010

New Aircraft Represents The Next 50 Years For US Department Of Fish And Wildlife

Quest Kodiak Is Featured By DOI At AirVenture's Federal Pavilion

By Maxine Scheer

The Quest Kodiak was introduced at AirVenture in 2005, and amongst the 42 Kodiaks currently out in the field, one of them is in service with the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI).

Visitors to EAA AirVenture's Federal Pavilion will be greeted by a brightly painted Kodiak being used for DOI aerial surveillance programs. Proudly sitting inside the spacious Quest Kodiak was Pilot Fred Roetker, a pilot-biologist for over 26 years with the department, logging 8,000+ hours flying missions for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service (FWS), Division of Migratory Bird Management.

Fred provided some history on the use of aviation by FWS. "Aviation has been a vital tool to wildlife management, especially in remote areas," said Roetker. Just after World War II, the availability of pilots and aircraft allowed the Fish and Wildlife service to established its own fleet, and incorporate aviation as a primary means of performing wildlife surveys in remote areas.

FWS Pilot Fred Roetker And Wife Janet

FWS has had the Kodiak for about 18 months, and "this aircraft", said Fred, "represents the Next 50 Years for the Department." Fred estimates that FWS will soon be accepting about nine Quest Kodiak's into their fleet. He noted that FWS operates approximately 60 aircraft, approximately half of which are based in Alaska.

"The Kodiak has performed well," said Roetker. "The aircraft's range is a key factor." In spring and summer, we fly missions as far north as the Arctic Ocean. "It allows us to carry more people and equipment and with the features provided by the Garmin 1000 panel, such as advanced GPS, and information on terrain, traffic and fuel status, it significantly increases safety."  Fred speaks from experience. He estimates he has about 400+ hours in the aircraft.

The FWS website provides some interesting aviation history on the service. Every spring and summer for the past 50 years, teams of FWS pilot-biologists have taken to the skies to survey North America's waterfowl breeding grounds. Flying more than 80,000 miles, crisscrossing the country on missions that involve low-leveling flying into areas with no weather reporting stations, highly trained and skilled pilot-biologists fly to the some of the most remote regions of Canada and Alaska.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologists With Quest Koidak

When asked about the career opportunities with FWS, Fred's eyes lit up. "There are openings," said Fred, "and the combination of skills is not easy find". "We anticipate hiring 3 or four positions over the next year for a twelve person program." He described the unique qualities of having both a wildlife biology background and the commercial pilot qualifications, described in more detail on USA jobs.

This job requires a family commitment. Fred's wife Janet was standing alongside the Kodiak and said she was happy to see her husband. Janet noted that the nine days that comprises the FWS visit to AirVenture represents the longest stretch of time they have had together since May.

The next stop for Fred and the Quest Kodiak is closer to home - the Gulf Coast, to monitor birds and injured wildlife impacted by the BP Oil Spill. The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.



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