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Thread: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

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    Registered User AviatorKeith's Avatar
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    Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    I was fortunate enough to find this forum through Google. My fascination with the number of people who have successfully built an aircraft at home prompted my research, which led me here. The thought of building my own aircraft interests me for a few reasons, not the least of which is the potential cost savings. For instance, in some cases, one can build the E-LSA version of an aircraft for less than half the cost of the S-LSA version of the same aircraft. In addition, as I understand it, if you build your own, you can maintain it yourself to a degree and maybe in some instances do your own annuals? If that's true, I'm definitely ready to take on this challenge.

    My criteria is basically a two place, side by side seating low wing LSA with a reasonable useful load.(I'm 6'1" 248) My Sport Pilot lessons will start this Spring and it is not my intention to train in this plane so the useful load needs to only accomodate me.

    For my tastes, the Thorp T211 is the perfect plane for me, but I wrote Indus Aviation and got a real generic reply. They appear to be "transitioning", in trouble or no longer offer kits for sale so I've been looking at similar styles in an attempt to find a cost effective alternative.

    I had narrowed it down to the Zodiac CH650 and the Sonex, but I don't think I would fit comfortably in a Sonex and the low wing Zenith Zodiac CH650B seems to meet my every need. It seems I can get in the air for $30k and possibly, depending on power plant and instrument selection, significantly less than that. For my first project, I'm opting for a kit because, although scratch building would be even more cost effective, I think it would overwhelm me, at least until I learn more about this process. Because I'm new to aviation, I'm not sure exactly how you decide what project to build other than what appeals to you, what is a proven design and what fits your personal needs and budget. I was hoping to field suggestions from owners/builders/pilots of the Zodiac CH650B or it's predecessor the CH601XL as well as other aircraft to compare it to. All pros and cons welcome.
    Last edited by AviatorKeith; December 1st, 2010 at 06:48 AM.
    Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the world, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    You are in for a surprise if you think you will save any money by kit building, or even scratch building an aircraft. You build because you want to build, not to attempt to save money. My opinion is: get your license first, then move on to the kit. You will find yourself running into problems if building and learning to fly at the same time. At some point one will over shadow the other and then you will find yourself doing only one thing, or maybe burning out altogether. Again, get your license then move onto building......Take it as you wish but that's my .o2c.

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    Registered User AviatorKeith's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickathome View Post
    You are in for a surprise if you think you will save any money by kit building, or even scratch building an aircraft. You build because you want to build, not to attempt to save money. My opinion is: get your license first, then move on to the kit. You will find yourself running into problems if building and learning to fly at the same time. At some point one will over shadow the other and then you will find yourself doing only one thing, or maybe burning out altogether. Again, get your license then move onto building......Take it as you wish but that's my .o2c.

    I'm not building to save money. I'm building to learn and because I want my own LSA and frankly, I don't have $100k to drop with my sons heading to college each of the next 3 years. If there is savings along the way, I'm all for savings. It seems though like you are saying that it will cost me $100k to build the E-LSA version of the SLSA ZODIAC LS. If that is the case, I'm certainly not interested. I called the Zenith company today and inquired about the CH650B and the number I was quoted for the entire airframe build with the upgrades I want was $22K. I'm going with a Corvair powerplant and because my plane won't have the latest glass panel technology in it, I don't see how my cost would even approach what a comparable ready to fly S-LSA would cost. Also, I'm in no hurry to build this airplane. Again, I'm building to learn so there will be no strict deadline.

    I won't be able to work on it while I'm doing Sport Pilot training anyway because I'm traveling to take an accelerated course. When I am learning to fly, it will have my undivided attention. I don't take the danger of not being properly prepared lightly.

    I'm open to a recommendation off of this list of planes that can be built for less than $30K:
    Cheaper Aircraft
    Last edited by AviatorKeith; December 1st, 2010 at 09:50 PM. Reason: Added thread link.
    Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the world, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

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    Moderator addaon's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Zenith is a great company, and the prices they quote are, if interpreted correctly, realistic. Don't forget to factor in tools, time, finishing (paint + cockpit instruments especially), and engine... it's easy to underestimate engine costs. But yes, you can spend half as much money, or less, to build an LSA than to buy a new one, if you ignore the value of your time (which is perfectly justifiable if you enjoy building).

    That said, the standard thinking is that people who build for the sake of owning, rather than build for the sake of building, tend to have low completion rates. It's a lot of work, and dreaming about the future is only so much motivation. For much less than the cost of building an LSA, you can buy a used one in good condition; if flying is the main goal, buying used is both cheaper and faster.

    With regards to the 650B itself, I don't know much about the Zenith low wings. I'm building a CH701 myself, and am quite enjoying the process; no idea when it'll fly, though.

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    Registered User AviatorKeith's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Quote Originally Posted by addaon View Post
    Zenith is a great company, and the prices they quote are, if interpreted correctly, realistic. Don't forget to factor in tools, time, finishing (paint + cockpit instruments especially), and engine... it's easy to underestimate engine costs. But yes, you can spend half as much money, or less, to build an LSA than to buy a new one, if you ignore the value of your time (which is perfectly justifiable if you enjoy building).

    That said, the standard thinking is that people who build for the sake of owning, rather than build for the sake of building, tend to have low completion rates. It's a lot of work, and dreaming about the future is only so much motivation. For much less than the cost of building an LSA, you can buy a used one in good condition; if flying is the main goal, buying used is both cheaper and faster.

    With regards to the 650B itself, I don't know much about the Zenith low wings. I'm building a CH701 myself, and am quite enjoying the process; no idea when it'll fly, though.
    Thanks for your reply. As you have no idea when your aircraft will fly, I'd like to be flying mine in 3 years by aged 50 but if it takes longer I'm okay with that. The idea of building an airplane both appeals to me and challenges me. In as much as the resulting aircraft will be the "prize", what I gain in knowledge while building and the time spent with my sons will trump that easily.

    I'm one of those people who's dumb(or smart) enough to believe that there's nothing I can't do if I commit to it and I'm both committed to learning more about the science of flight and being an aircraft owner.
    Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the world, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

    — José Maria Velasco Ibarra, President of Ecuador

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    Moderator addaon's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Then, if the 650B seems like the plane you want, I think it's a very reasonable way to go. For me, the final decision came down to Sonex or the Zenith 701; these days, I'd also put the RV-12 high on the list. If you've considered those and think the 650 is closest to what you want, do just two more things before you commit:

    1) Fly in one. Find someone local (or not so local) who built and go up with them; it's the only way to be sure.
    2) Start talking to the kit vendors in person; go to an open-house day, etc. These are people you'll be interacting with lots for clarification, help, spare parts in a hurry... make sure you're going to be comfortable with a $30k relationship with them for three years.

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    Registered User snaildrake's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Keith, you've really simplified your life by focusing on low-wing LSA kits. The only other one that comes to mind is the RANS S-19 Venterra, which is fairly similar to the Zenith CH650B. Other than those the low wing kits are aerobatic (One Design) or high performance (Falco) - all a lot more work than monocoque aluminum. You can do one of those for your next plane.

    If you want contact with recent builders of Zenith kits, I'd sign onto the forum at their web site. -Dan

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    Registered User AviatorKeith's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Quote Originally Posted by snaildrake View Post
    Keith, you've really simplified your life by focusing on low-wing LSA kits. The only other one that comes to mind is the RANS S-19 Venterra, which is fairly similar to the Zenith CH650B. Other than those the low wing kits are aerobatic (One Design) or high performance (Falco) - all a lot more work than monocoque aluminum. You can do one of those for your next plane.

    If you want contact with recent builders of Zenith kits, I'd sign onto the forum at their web site. -Dan
    Thanks Dan, that sounds like good advice. Zenith gave me the names of three builders in my area, but all were 601HD builders. I actually prefer the sort of polyhedral "hershey bar" wing the HD features, but it's not an LSA.

    I actually found an almost completed CH601XL with an unopened "B" upgrade package included for $12k but I passed because I'm not sure how the finished airplane would be classified with so much of the work done. It would be a great project for someone who is ready to fly soon.
    Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the world, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

    — José Maria Velasco Ibarra, President of Ecuador

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    Moderator addaon's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    I will, again, mention the RV-12. If I was in the same position, that's what I'd build today.

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    Moderator Topaz's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Quote Originally Posted by addaon View Post
    I will, again, mention the RV-12. If I was in the same position, that's what I'd build today.
    Yeah, that's an awfully nice airplane, and you can't beat Van's Aircraft for their track record.
    "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry David Thoreau

    Design Project: Conceptual Design of an "Inexpensive" Single-Seat Motorglider
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    Registered User AviatorKeith's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    Quote Originally Posted by addaon View Post
    I will, again, mention the RV-12. If I was in the same position, that's what I'd build today.
    I like the polyhedral "hershey bar" wing of the Zodiac 601HD, which makes it a slower airframe, but I'm not interested in speed unless I'm being chased. I've just discovered the HD can be built light sport certified with the Corvair powerplant and the airframe kit is less than the CH650B and has none of the controversial structural history.

    The RV-12 is nice, but there's no particular feature to justify the additional $10k in airframe cost. Help me to understand the difference in price. What features or circumstances am I not considering here? Do you know something I don't?
    Last edited by AviatorKeith; December 3rd, 2010 at 11:58 PM.
    Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the world, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

    — José Maria Velasco Ibarra, President of Ecuador

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    Moderator Topaz's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    What justifies the additional price? Van's Aircraft decades of experience building and selling kits that people consistently turn into airplanes that perform as-promised and themselves deliver years of reliable service. This is not a knock against any of the CH series, but nobody beats Van's at the end of the day for track record and reliability as a business.
    "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry David Thoreau

    Design Project: Conceptual Design of an "Inexpensive" Single-Seat Motorglider
    Discussion Thread for the Project: Discussion: Conceptual Design of an "Inexpensive" Single-Seat Motorglider

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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    I'm in the same position as Aviator Keith. I'm looking to build a CH650B - going to the Zenith factory workshop in January. I have a sport pilot license, and my son is doing flight training. He's interested in being an aeronautical engineer, and I got interested in how planes worked when I got an old airplane mechanic's handbook as a kid. I'm an engineer, and have done some sheet metal work, riveting, and machining, so I'm hoping I can pick up the skills fairly quickly.

    I currently rent a Gobosh 700s when I want to fly. I like low wings for the air visibility, and I love the Gobosh but need a bigger payload. I looked at the RV-12 and the Rans s-19 as well. I chose the Zodiac over the RV-12 because it can be registered as E-AB, giving more flexibility in building, and it has a bigger payload. The Rans S-19 has a lower payload as well. I have experience with the Rotax 912uls from the Gobosh, and it's light weight and fuel efficient, so I'll probably go that route.

    I'm expecting that when all is done I'll be spending $40,000 - $50,000.

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    Registered User stol's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    xxxx
    Last edited by stol; May 5th, 2012 at 08:06 PM.

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    Registered User AviatorKeith's Avatar
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    Re: Zodiac CH 650B kit a good choice for a newbie?

    I had an amazing conversation with a gentleman who home built his ZODIAC CH601HD and it was quite an experience. I now know that $30K as a reasonable goal is ambitious at best.

    He (much like Nick in this post) also made me aware of just what level of commitment building this plane will take and after hearing about the 12,500 holes he had to drill and the countless rivets, I've come to the conclusion that I'm certainly in no hurry to complete this project so I've decided to build it section by section, which will give me shorter, more attainable goals to achieve at a time and a greater sense of accomplishment over the course of the entire process. On a practical level, I can amortize the cost as I build, which will enable me to save for the lightweight Jabiru 3300 he's convinced me that I need. He told me that if he could do it again, he would have chosen the 3300 for more power instead of the 2200 he installed.

    He also made me aware of the danger of purchasing someone else's project. He recounted a story told to him by the Inspector of his plane who, on one occasion, met a guy who had spent $60K building a plane from a partially assembled kit seeking certification. Because of the work that had been done, the plane could not be certified. Not cool.

    I may be in the same rudder workshop in January, BeckyAnne…
    Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the world, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

    — José Maria Velasco Ibarra, President of Ecuador

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