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Is a Zodiac CH650B a good build for a handy non pilot?

Posted By:
Keith Sanford
Homebuilder or Craftsman
7
Posts
2
#1 Posted: 11/30/2010 20:55:18 Modified: 11/30/2010 20:57:48

 Let me preface this post by saying that I've wanted to fly since I was a teenager. I'm now 47 and it's a good time to actually pursue this love I've always had for aviation. I'm a pretty handy guy, but have never built a vehicle of any sort. I'm not all that familiar with the terminology, so forgive me if I use the wrong terms to describe something.


I'm planning to take flying lessons in the Spring in order to get my Sport Pilot's certificate. I joined EAA because I was fascinated by the number of people who have successfully home built an aircraft. I seriously had no idea this was a possibility. 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? That sounds like significant savings to me so the thought of building is something I'm seriously considering.

My criteria is basically a two place, side by side seating low wing LSA with a reasonable useful load.(I'm 6'1" 248)  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 think they're out of business 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've settled on the low wing Zenith Zodiac CH650B because I don't fit in a Sonex.  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 I think scratch building would overwhelm me, at least until I learn more.

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.
Comments, compliments, critiques, anecdotes are all welcome. Enlighten me, please.

 



Wilson Lamb
7
Posts
0
#2 Posted: 12/2/2010 19:50:48

I'd love to do some flying, but have no interest in real travel flying.  For local cruising and landing off airport and sightseeing, I'd look at the high wing STOLs, like the CH-750.  http://www.zenithair.com/stolch750/

With the lift available, I expect they would tolerate considerable overloading, if needed to haul out your deer, etc.

Wilson

 

 



Keith Sanford
Homebuilder or Craftsman
7
Posts
2
#3 Posted: 12/2/2010 22:41:00 Modified: 12/2/2010 22:42:15
Wilson Lamb wrote:

 

I'd love to do some flying, but have no interest in real travel flying.  For local cruising and landing off airport and sightseeing, I'd look at the high wing STOLs, like the CH-750.  http://www.zenithair.com/stolch750/

With the lift available, I expect they would tolerate considerable overloading, if needed to haul out your deer, etc.

Wilson

 

 

 

Yeah, the useful load and cabin width is what brought me to Zenith in the first place. Their planes are rated pretty high on BigPilots.com. I even considered the Highlander because of it's capacity to accommodate big guys like me. I've lost more than 50 lbs and continue to lose so even that is becoming less of an issue for me. I do more fishing than hunting so I won't be hauling any deer unless I hit them while landing.

I took discovery flights in both a Cessna 172 and Piper Warrior II and there was no comparison. The low wing much improves the visibility above me which to me is more important.

 



Joe Scheibinger
Homebuilder or Craftsman
16
Posts
6
#4 Posted: 12/3/2010 00:34:49

Hi Keith,

I may be slightly biased but I think the Zenith in any model is a great airplane! I have a 650XL about 75% finished and you will find that the plans are outstanding, the company is easy to work with, and the kits are well thought out and easy to build. The Sonex is also a great airplane, but for me it's too cramped to be comfortable. Another nice thing about all of the Zenith products is that the company actually encourages and helps builders with alternative engines. Sonex does not.

Can you build one for $30,000? It's possible, but pretty hard. If you got a great deal on a good used engine, polished the aluminum instead of paint. get some used steam gauges, I think you can. If you ever visit the Oshkosh area, E-mail me at backstagelive@gmail and come and visit! You can make a trip out of it and come see the EAA museum. I can show you my kit, and you can visit the Sonex factory and see if you are comfortable in one of those planes. 



Joe S.
Keith Sanford
Homebuilder or Craftsman
7
Posts
2
#5 Posted: 12/3/2010 02:11:22
Joe Scheibinger wrote:

 

Hi Keith,

I may be slightly biased but I think the Zenith in any model is a great airplane! I have a 650XL about 75% finished and you will find that the plans are outstanding, the company is easy to work with, and the kits are well thought out and easy to build. The Sonex is also a great airplane, but for me it's too cramped to be comfortable. Another nice thing about all of the Zenith products is that the company actually encourages and helps builders with alternative engines. Sonex does not.

Can you build one for $30,000? It's possible, but pretty hard. If you got a great deal on a good used engine, polished the aluminum instead of paint. get some used steam gauges, I think you can. If you ever visit the Oshkosh area, E-mail me at backstagelive@gmail and come and visit! You can make a trip out of it and come see the EAA museum. I can show you my kit, and you can visit the Sonex factory and see if you are comfortable in one of those planes. 

 

So $30k will be a stretch, huh? Good to know. I'd like to go basic with instruments. I just need them to be dependable. I actually prefer the polished aluminum to a paint job. Believe me, when I get to that point, I'll be here digging through the archives for directions for upkeep. 

I assume you got the upgraded wing reinforcement kit. What does that do to your gross weight? What  powerplant are you using? I think ideally, I like the direct drive air cooled simplicity of the Jabiru 3300, but because this will only be my "$100 hamburger" means for the most part, I am looking at the 100 Hp Corvair from William Wynne. Am I wrong believing this powerplant could accommodate me, a buddy and maybe a tackle box and occasional overnight bag?



Michael Rabe
Homebuilder or Craftsman
1
Post
0
#6 Posted: 12/4/2010 15:12:24

Hi Keith,


I am building a zodiac xl (with the wing upgrade) from plans.  I think it is a fine airplane, but 30k will definitely be a stretch with the Jab engine, unless you can find a used one for cheap. The jab is a light engine for the power (the corvair will weigh more) so if you can afford it, go with the jab.  Given your size, you may find that none of the kit airplanes will  offer as much useful load as you want or need.  About 500 lbs useful load is the best you can expect (talk to people who have built them and weighed them, don't believe all that you read in brochures), and with 200# of fuel, that leave 300 lbs for passengers and baggage.  This is the dilemma with light sport; some people seems to think you can get something for nothing.  All are light airplanes that don't carry much.  As long as you understand this, you can be happy flying light sport.  Can't really beat the physics of it, unless you pay much more for high-tech carbon fiber stuff beyond the range of the average homebuilder.  But don't fall into the trap of thinking that you can fly 2 250# passengers with extended fuel and baggage for a camping trip in a light sport airplane.  Can't happen.  If that is your mission, buy a Skyhawk, it would cost about the same.








Keith Sanford
Homebuilder or Craftsman
7
Posts
2
#7 Posted: 12/4/2010 17:13:47 Modified: 12/5/2010 17:42:59
Michael Rabe wrote:

Hi Keith,


I am building a zodiac xl (with the wing upgrade) from plans.  I think it is a fine airplane, but 30k will definitely be a stretch with the Jab engine, unless you can find a used one for cheap. The jab is a light engine for the power (the corvair will weigh more) so if you can afford it, go with the jab.  Given your size, you may find that none of the kit airplanes will  offer as much useful load as you want or need.  About 500 lbs useful load is the best you can expect (talk to people who have built them and weighed them, don't believe all that you read in brochures), and with 200# of fuel, that leave 300 lbs for passengers and baggage.  This is the dilemma with light sport; some people seems to think you can get something for nothing.  All are light airplanes that don't carry much.  As long as you understand this, you can be happy flying light sport.  Can't really beat the physics of it, unless you pay much more for high-tech carbon fiber stuff beyond the range of the average homebuilder.  But don't fall into the trap of thinking that you can fly 2 250# passengers with extended fuel and baggage for a camping trip in a light sport airplane.  Can't happen.  If that is your mission, buy a Skyhawk, it would cost about the same.


 

 

Yeah, I'm coming to grips with the reality of useful load versus what's been published and I'm accepting the fact that as a Sport Pilot, I'll be flying solo a lot. I'll upgrade once I get my PPL. I had an amazing conversation with a gentleman who home built his ZODIAC CH601HD and he built his plane 10 years ago for $30K with a Jabiru 2200. His only regret, that he didn't put the 3300 in it. He recommended I purchase the Zenith tool kit as well. I've been buying clecos on Ebay and Amazon so I'm of the impression that I could build that toolkit cheaper myself.

I'm leaning towards the CH601HD with the Jabiru 3300 for power now that I've seen it and it may not be Light Sport certified when I'm finished building it. Hopefully, I will have completed my PPL checkride by it's completion. I'm going to go to the rudder workshop probably in January and come home with the finished rudder and wing kit to start. I'm building section at a time which is a more economic choice while I prepare to pay for flight lessons in the Spring and save for that Jabiru I want.

 

 

 



Ronald Moore
Homebuilder or Craftsman
4
Posts
1
#8 Posted: 4/14/2011 20:42:46

Keith;

I spent the better part of 2-years waiting to see how the 601and the Zodiac XL worked out as projects. Glad I waited because the new 650B has the upgrades suggested by the FAA and fits into the sport plane catagory.

My height and weigh are really close to yours (I'm just a few lbs lighter) but if you plan on flying a 650B with full fuel and another larger person, then do as I am doing and plan to use a few lbs.

If you are new to home building I would strongly suggest the factory kit because it will simplify your building a tremendous amount of effort and time because the ribs, spars, skins have matched tooling holes and will go together very well, especially a 'newbie' builder. Me? My funds are limited and I have to pay as I play so I'm scratch building. I've made all of the forms for the Horizontal Stab, Vertical Stab, Wing Ribs and so far the plans are complicated but thorough and there are a lot of 601 builders out there to help and the factory so far has given the few pointers I needed.

It is cheap to scratch build...very few shop equipment needed but a small drill press, band saw (found mine on the internet) and a router and table, table disc sander are about all you'll need. Most of the builders (including me) got these a Harbor Freight) but don't buy anything until you get your plans and get plugged into Zenith's Builder Forum which will tell you exactly what to get at the best price. The Builder Forum cannot be access until you have the set of plans with your Serial Number but it is quite good.

Go to http://homebuilthelp.com/Scratch.htm and spend $39.00 for their 2-DVD Video 'Scratch Build Basics for Metal Aircraft. It is terrific and geared towards the 601-650 Zenith Zodiac. You won't be disappointed. Watching their presentation should give you everything you need to make a final go-no-go decision.

Just so you know I've built 2 BD-5's some 30+ years ago. I'm now 72, in good health, and having a ball starting the 650B project. My craft will have a Wynne Corvair engine http://www.flycorvair.com/601.html which is a perfect match for what I plan on doing. Catch me at ronflieshigh@earthlink.net if there is anything else I can help you with.

Ron Moore