Zenith CH601HD

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skyhawkpm

New Member
Good day,

I'm a Canadian who is currently looking to purchase my first plane and I've noticed a lot of homebuilt are not equipped for night flight.

I was wondering if it was possible to purchase the aforementioned aircraft and add the required equipment needed for night flight (landing light etc.) + attitude indicator (personal preference).

How challenging would it be to complete this task and would it be legal?

On a separate note, I have a question about the safety record of this aircraft after scanning a few records. There are a few records that mention eye witnesses hearing a loud bang similar to the sound of an engine failure followed by a strong roll and a dive. An engine failure in a C172 cruising would simply result in pitching to best glide and finding a field with normal flight controls. I would like to be sure that in the event of an engine failure, I would expect normal flight characteristics and not for example, the plane having a strong yaw tendency or hard to control.

Finally, I am a bit concerned with the quality of build. I was speaking to a gentleman selling his Zenith who described that his was 1 out of 4 built by the same builder. He went on to explain that 2 were inspected and issues were found with build quality and corrected. The 3rd unfortunately crashed from what is presumed is this bad build quality and they are looking to track down the 4th. Is it fair for me to believe that a very good AME and pre-buy would uncover bad build quality?

I appreciate any feedback or advice.

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
It's always good to get advice but not all aircraft mechs are created equal. Try and find someone who has experience with homebuilt and has an eye for a decent build.

jedi

Well-Known Member
Sound like it may be best to just let this one go.

I have flown a 601 and found it OK but not the greatest. There were some wing failure fatalities but I understand there is a fix.

I don’t know what th HD adds. The one I flew had the longer tapered wing installed but the sale included the original Hershey Bar wings. I do not see why anyone would want the Hershey Bar wing.

Last edited:

Bigshu

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Good day,

I'm a Canadian who is currently looking to purchase my first plane and I've noticed a lot of homebuilt are not equipped for night flight.

I was wondering if it was possible to purchase the aforementioned aircraft and add the required equipment needed for night flight (landing light etc.) + attitude indicator (personal preference).

How challenging would it be to complete this task and would it be legal?

On a separate note, I have a question about the safety record of this aircraft after scanning a few records. There are a few records that mention eye witnesses hearing a loud bang similar to the sound of an engine failure followed by a strong roll and a dive. An engine failure in a C172 cruising would simply result in pitching to best glide and finding a field with normal flight controls. I would like to be sure that in the event of an engine failure, I would expect normal flight characteristics and not for example, the plane having a strong yaw tendency or hard to control.

Finally, I am a bit concerned with the quality of build. I was speaking to a gentleman selling his Zenith who described that his was 1 out of 4 built by the same builder. He went on to explain that 2 were inspected and issues were found with build quality and corrected. The 3rd unfortunately crashed from what is presumed is this bad build quality and they are looking to track down the 4th. Is it fair for me to believe that a very good AME and pre-buy would uncover bad build quality?

I appreciate any feedback or advice.
Have you talked to the folks at Zenair? They could give you insight on what you're wanting to do.

TFF

Well-Known Member
A prebuy should uncover a lot of under average build quality. But prebuys are relatively fast. Looking at it and looking and living with it is how you really get to know it. Buy the best plane you can, not one that will just do the job. Sometimes that means buying something different. Only buy the cheapest, for the main reason, if you want a project.

A plane should not fly different if the engine quits. Landing is pretty close to a quitting engine. I would not accept anything that gets weird unless it’s historically special.

vh2q

Member
I have been going down the same path and here is my take:

601HD can qualify for LSA but not always, depends on the build. It has no flaps and HB wings
601HDS has taperered wing, is faster and snappier, has no flaps and is too fast for LSA
601XL was specifically designed to qualify for LSA, has flaps, but there were issues with in-flight breakup
601XLB same plane with fixes for control surface flutter and wing spar failure. These fixes can be retrofitted to the XL
650 current version, designed to perform like LSA, probably the best of the bunch.

All of them have marginal useful load, the later ones are a bit better, but any with the heavier Lycoming and optional wing tanks give some of that up.

The XL crashes have not been diagnosed conclusively but there are indications they had to do with main spar failure and/or control surface flutter. The root cause was thought to be poor design but it could have been poor construction or unauthorized high speed maneuvers.

You will struggle to resell a 601 of any flavor, particularly the XL.

Pops

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
I had a plans built 600. Before the 601 kit. Designed for a 1835 VW engine. Gave it to my son and grandson. Still needs the canopy and engine assembled. Gave them enough parts for a C-A-75 and built the engine mount for the Cont.

Victor Bravo

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Skyhawkpm my opinion for what it's worth is go find two or three local EAA chapters in the Ontario area, I'm sure there are a few. See who in those chapters has the most experience with the 600 series Zenair. Talk to the members of these chapters and you will quickly figure out which members know what they are talking baout and which members are more ego than experience.

Then have a few of these members - not just one - go with you to look at the airplane. It should not cost you bundle to have these guys (or girls) go with you to see the airplane... REAL pilots who give a **** about helping other pilots with safety matters will usually do it for a good lunch or dinner at the end of the trip.

I don't know where in Canada he is, but we have a very highly experienced contributor here, Dan Thomas, whose postings and experience have earned him a pretty high amount of credibility among the "regulars" on this forum. So although it is not my place to speak for him or his ability/interest/time for this kiind of assistance.... if he is located anywhere near the airplane you are looking at, I'd certainly start with Dan.

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
I have been going down the same path and here is my take:

601HD can qualify for LSA but not always, depends on the build. It has no flaps and HB wings
601HDS has taperered wing, is faster and snappier, has no flaps and is too fast for LSA
601XL was specifically designed to qualify for LSA, has flaps, but there were issues with in-flight breakup
601XLB same plane with fixes for control surface flutter and wing spar failure. These fixes can be retrofitted to the XL
650 current version, designed to perform like LSA, probably the best of the bunch.

All of them have marginal useful load, the later ones are a bit better, but any with the heavier Lycoming and optional wing tanks give some of that up.

The XL crashes have not been diagnosed conclusively but there are indications they had to do with main spar failure and/or control surface flutter. The root cause was thought to be poor design but it could have been poor construction or unauthorized high speed maneuvers.

You will struggle to resell a 601 of any flavor, particularly the XL.
The basic 601 HD is simple enough to fly but it has it's quirks and is sufficiently different to a 152/172/PA 28 that it will make you sit up and pay attention. They are easy to maintain, easy to ground handle but are not STOL aircraft and are NOT haulers. They can readily operate off good grass strips or basic graded strips but must be treated with respect as their thinner sheet metal means that they can be damaged easier than a 172 or PA 28. The most basic fuel system is not good and needs to be altered and the expected range is not huge and the baggage allowance is modest but usable for a day away trip. the XLB is, as described, better roll rate and better designed. the HD and HDS are simply earlier evolutions and are quite simple and basic. Ive enjoyed flying them and have operated them from tarmac, concrete, grass and graded runways.

P-Chapman

New Member
Structural issues: As stated before, did not apply to the HD or HDS at all!
Totally different wing structure and wing carry through. Can't think of every hearing of one come apart, though I heard of someone bending the wings after doing 200mph, past Vne, and pulling up hard.

Only the later XL which had the wings designed too light and could be subject to flutter if cable tensions weren't kept just right. (And the issue was fixed up again in the XLB and later the 650 design which is still current).

Build quality: An issue with ANY homebuilt. Do good inspections of a particular plane. You hear of ultralights crashing because someone screwed up the fuel system or whatever; you hear of Lancair IVP's crashing for the same reason.

601HD and HDS's aren't exciting, hot looking aircraft that command high prices.
But many were built, especially in Canada, as the kits were relatively simple to build and affordable. (Actually the kits were a bit crude for many years. Eg, metal on metal movement in the landing gear systems. Clever builders, and later kits, made more use of nylon wear surfaces etc. Still, one isn't usually expecting to fly a light homebuilt for 5000 hrs...)

Usable weight: Depends a lot on the engine and how well outfitted. Can actually have quite a payload!
I would disagree with vh2q saying the payload was "marginal" but agree with him that heavier engines can make the aircraft a lot heavier.
My dad and I had an HDS with a 912 engine, that with a full VFR steam gauge panel, light interior, and after painting, came out to about 620 lbs, giving us 580 lbs to play with before hitting the 1200 gross. ( I have heard of heavy 601's being over 700 lbs empty.)(Can't recall off hand if some were allowed 1320lbs under US Sport Pilot rules or something ... so there was structural margin even if one busted 1200 lbs.)

580 lbs payload gave us approx 100 lbs gas in fuselage tank + 45 lbs gas in wing locker tank + 80 lbs baggage max = 177 lbs left for each pilot. Tons and tons of payload at least for non-big-boy pilots.

Baggage: 40 lbs max in the turtledeck. Each wing locker could also take 40 lbs. A lot of homebuilts are a lot worse, unless they are the "backcountry hauler" type! (I had one wing locker 3/4 filled with a fuel tank. Later versions put fuel tanks in the leading edges, and one could then have wing lockers free, and use either just a small header tank behind the panel, or also (I think) no tank at all).

Handling quirks: They generally fly decently. They don't generally make the speeds claimed by Zenair. They are light in pitch; could be heavier for better control harmony with the ailerons when doing greater aileron deflections (especially the hingeless aileron version). Makes for easy fingertip flying but novices jumping into them out of a C172 need to be careful. Have heard of novices giving a good shove on the stick and sending all the dirt on the floor to the ceiling as they push past zero G!

The small all-flying tail may indeed give enough control as Heintz designed it, but it doesn't give as much directional stability as a big tail would. So there's a bit more snaking in turbulence.

Just my quick opinions; I flew a few 601's a bit, and one for 250+ hrs.

Bigshu

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
You will struggle to resell a 601 of any flavor, particularly the XL.
I've seen some sold on Barnstormer. I don't know that anyone actually buys a plane with resale in mind. There are lots of Zeniths flying, a healthy builders/owners community, so maybe it's worth talking to the Zenith folks.

skyhawkpm

New Member
Thank you to all for your advice. I've taken your advice and contacted Zenair/Zenith in Midland, Ontario. I really appreciate all of the great feedback.

PatrickW

Well-Known Member
For anyone who is interested in Zeniths, they are having a fly-in at the factory in about a month from now. Probably the best opportunity you'll have to see a large number of Zenith's built by real people and flown in. Also will be a wide variety of engines, too.

- Pat

Bigshu

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
For anyone who is interested in Zeniths, they are having a fly-in at the factory in about a month from now. Probably the best opportunity you'll have to see a large number of Zenith's built by real people and flown in. Also will be a wide variety of engines, too.

- Pat
This is always a fun time. There are lots of Zeniths on the flight line, and the vendors are less rushed, more able to talk than at the big shows. I try to make it every year.

hellschoener

Member
Good day,

I'm a Canadian who is currently looking to purchase my first plane and I've noticed a lot of homebuilt are not equipped for night flight.

I was wondering if it was possible to purchase the aforementioned aircraft and add the required equipment needed for night flight (landing light etc.) + attitude indicator (personal preference).

How challenging would it be to complete this task and would it be legal?

On a separate note, I have a question about the safety record of this aircraft after scanning a few records. There are a few records that mention eye witnesses hearing a loud bang similar to the sound of an engine failure followed by a strong roll and a dive. An engine failure in a C172 cruising would simply result in pitching to best glide and finding a field with normal flight controls. I would like to be sure that in the event of an engine failure, I would expect normal flight characteristics and not for example, the plane having a strong yaw tendency or hard to control.

Finally, I am a bit concerned with the quality of build. I was speaking to a gentleman selling his Zenith who described that his was 1 out of 4 built by the same builder. He went on to explain that 2 were inspected and issues were found with build quality and corrected. The 3rd unfortunately crashed from what is presumed is this bad build quality and they are looking to track down the 4th. Is it fair for me to believe that a very good AME and pre-buy would uncover bad build quality?

I appreciate any feedback or advice.
Hello, Countryman, though I am in the Yukon.

You are interested in a Zenair 601. I just finished the repair of a 93, Zenair CH 601. It belonged to a friend of mine. He damaged it, trying to
land on a packed snow trail on wheels. The nose wheel broke through the snow, - bingo.
Anyway, the damage is repaired. The aircraft flew with a Rotax 582. The engine is there but needs to be overhauled, as it sat since 2004.
The aircraft was registered as Advanced Ultralight. The airplane would be available as is, right now (without installed engine)for $12.500. The complete overhaul of the engine was quoted for$4700, by BC Rotax dealer.
A low time Rotax 912, 80 HP would also be available for under $10.000. Anyway, this Zenair 601 would be flyable for under$20.000. It would be a very reasonable way getting into aviation.
If you are interested, I can send you pictures.
Blue skies

skyhawkpm

New Member
On another note - I find it hard to believe that this aircraft is rated for plus or minus 6g. I don't see how that this is possible when the wing spars and the thickness of the airframe is not comparable to a Vans or a Cessna. Does anyone know what the true numbers are? I have heard that you must be careful as the controls are very sensitive and it is easy to stress the airframe. I don't want to lose a wing doing a steep turn or an avoidance maneuver. Just last weekend I had to do an avoidance maneuver in a C172 travelling at 125knots from a traffic alert.

skyhawkpm

New Member
Why were you in such a steep dive?
Very funny. It was a nice day, with a light tailwind, and that's close to what a 172R with a 180HP Lycoming cruises at 2550 RPM. The rental is a wet rate so I go full blast!