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

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AviatorKeith

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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.
 
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Nickathome

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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.
 

AviatorKeith

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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:
http://www.homebuiltairplanes.com/forums/hangar-flying/7221-cheaper-aircraft.html
 
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addaon

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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.
 

AviatorKeith

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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.
 

addaon

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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.
 

snaildrake

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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
 

AviatorKeith

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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.
 

addaon

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

AviatorKeith

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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?
 
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Topaz

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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.
 

beckyanne19

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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.
 

AviatorKeith

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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. :cry: Not cool.

I may be in the same rudder workshop in January, BeckyAnne…
 

rheuschele

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Keith, you are in that really difficult stage of picking out what you will be doing nights and weekends for the next few years. Like other have said, find someone that will let you see if you fit in their plane. Your best bet right now is to start planning on Airventure at the end of July this year. Although it seems far off, the time will just sneak by. There you can see, smell, and feel quite a few different future projects. Sit in everything you can with a friend. I know you said you are only interested in what fits just you, but it it's not big enough to fly your boys back and forth to college, you will be kicking yourself for building it. Enjoy the journey.
Ron
 

Rhino

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Concerning the '12,500 holes he drilled', Zenith kits are all CNC pre-cut and pilot-hole match-drilled now. Most of the parts already have the pilot holes drilled. That makes your life much easier. $30k is a nice goal for an up front cost, but don't assume that as a total cost. By spreading the rest of the costs out over the build time as you said, you should be able to make up for the other costs. A lot of builders do that, myself included. I've actually been delayed by a series of medical issues, so my kit has sat untouched for quite some time. That's frustrating from a progress standpoint, but I have been able to stash away more money for my engine and avionics during that time, so it hasn't been all bad. We all do what we can.
 

AviatorKeith

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Keith, you are in that really difficult stage of picking out what you will be doing nights and weekends for the next few years. Like other have said, find someone that will let you see if you fit in their plane. Your best bet right now is to start planning on Airventure at the end of July this year. Although it seems far off, the time will just sneak by. There you can see, smell, and feel quite a few different future projects. Sit in everything you can with a friend. I know you said you are only interested in what fits just you, but it it's not big enough to fly your boys back and forth to college, you will be kicking yourself for building it. Enjoy the journey.
Ron

AirVenture just might be the place, with all vendors present, to provide me with the overall examination I need to make this decision. I'm pretty sold on the Zodiac, but since my concentration this Spring will be on actually learning to fly, my experiences could change both my opinion concerning the plane I want to build and it's use. I must admit, flying my boys to and from college would be awesome. Thanks for good sound advice, I will certainly take that into consideration. Oh, and by the way, what is the model of the cool plane you have as your avatar?



Concerning the '12,500 holes he drilled', Zenith kits are all CNC pre-cut and pilot-hole match-drilled now. Most of the parts already have the pilot holes drilled. That makes your life much easier. $30k is a nice goal for an up front cost, but don't assume that as a total cost. By spreading the rest of the costs out over the build time as you said, you should be able to make up for the other costs. A lot of builders do that, myself included. I've actually been delayed by a series of medical issues, so my kit has sat untouched for quite some time. That's frustrating from a progress standpoint, but I have been able to stash away more money for my engine and avionics during that time, so it hasn't been all bad. We all do what we can.
Yeah, the $30k price point was ambitious at best. That's sure a relief to hear concerning the advancement of the Zodiac kit. I can be a bit impulsive at times. As my buddies often say, "Fools, and Keith, rush in" so I'm going to focus on my flight lessons and see if it changes my love for this beautiful plane. In the mean time, I'll continue to hunt(and save) for the elusive Jabiru 3300.
 
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beckyanne19

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I'm worried about being impulsive too. So I hope to get a good feel for the Zodiac and how the kit goes together at the factory workshop. I want to try and start building soon, since I'm in my 50's, and it's a great time for my kids to share in the experience. I hope I can get the plane to come in at 700# or so to be able to fly with a wide variety of body types in the right seat, and left seat for that matter.
 

Rhino

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The workshop will tell you a great deal about your ability to build the plane. It's a lot easier than you might think, and Zenith has fantastic customer support.
 
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