When we did the comparisons between the PAC, Caravan and the Kodiak we looked at the following before buying it. i'm not going to compare the Caravan as it was eliminated early. (I operate one also)
Price. It was and maybe it still is a bit cheaper than the PAC .Its like a car.Depends on options and who you buy it from and when you placed your order. It comes with many more options than a PAC ,most which is not needed for skydiving. Most important is the G1000 Garmin avionics package that comes standard. Bit of a overkill for Skydiving but so much less maintenance.
Support. The factory is in Idaho. It's made in the US and a call away. The factory did go through some tough times ,but is back on track.
Durability. This aircraft has gone through the most extensive trials I have seen. They even allowed us to see how they try and break the landing gear . This aircraft was made for the outback and rough environments.
Cabin and Door Size. The cabin is extremely roomy .Very wide. It seats 15. On the straddle benches ,no-one needs to bend over and the door is 50 inches x 50 inches. That is big.
Performance. During its first weekend it was doing loads at around .26 per load.Wheels up to wheels down. That is with a pilot that has only flown it in the simulator and still figuring out the short cuts and the way she likes to be flown .(BTW. The aircraft comes with pilot training and three axis simulator flight time. One of the many small things that helps)
Design. It is a high wing and personally my preference. Makes for better visibility and much nicer landings. It has a tail that is higher than the PAC ,but 18 inches closer. We have eliminated the factory camera step for the fact that it rises higher than the floor. We have lowered the outside step and outside floater bar by 10 inches and extended it to 12 inches past the door for a camera man. In that configuration the cameraman and all floaters have their shoulders lower than the tail. As the case with all aircraft ,jumpers should only leave the aircraft when the pilot commands and approve and the aircraft is jump configuration.
Climb Rate> We did a one on one flight between a fully loaded PAC and Kodiak. The Kodiak did get to altitude faster ,but it was very un-scientific. Although we did take off together ,the PAC was loaded with dynamic weight and the Kodiak with Static weight. The Kodiak had no jump mods (Drag) but the pilot also had no jump pilot experience.
Few other things that swayed me.
Four Bladed Prop : higher ground clearance
Cruise Speed. At 178 knots ,the PAC doesn't come close and with ferry fees ,that really helps
Aesthetics. The Kodiak comes standard with leather and beautiful trim.Our mechanics shed a tear when they had to remove it for a cargo interior.It has a insulated cabin and if it wasn't for the jump door ,it would be good enough for a sound studio. Also comes with cabin heat ,8 place oxygen , standby instruments and has dual IFR instuments.
I am in no means criticizing the PAC . My hat goes of to anyone designing a aircraft and operating it. I have many friends that are extremely happy with their PACs and will buy another if needed.
This is a new aircraft and we will learn allot this year. Some good ,some bad. So far ,she has been great. Lets hope for a safe and great future with this aircraft.