Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

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pjdavis
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Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby pjdavis » Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:18 am

Hi Group,

I am currently training in a Bristell NG-5 - real nice LSA. I have also flown the RV-12. I really like the Arion Lightning and hope to get a chance to fly one. My goal is buy/build a LSA. Another plane that peaks my interest is the Zenith 650-B. I believe that is what rcpilot bought to learn to fly. Does anyone have any input and/or experience the Arion or Zenith?

Thanks!

PJ

rcpilot
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby rcpilot » Wed Oct 19, 2016 7:39 am

Hopefully someone besides me will weigh in. Not that I'm an expert, but for me I believe the 601 is great. The useful load on most approaches 600 lbs(not that that's a problem for me anymore), I find it easy to fly, good on gas(with the Rotax 912) and you can use mogas. Great visibility(although I can see why some people have a Sun shade), easy and relatively inexpensive to maintain. My instructor loves it and this is from a guy who flies small jet charters for a living. I still see them for sale, some have glass cockpits so if you don't mind having an ELSA I think they're hard to beat.

pjdavis
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby pjdavis » Wed Oct 19, 2016 7:59 am

Hi RC,

Thanks, I have been following your training link. I see you are scheduled for 11/2 - crossing my fingers for you! What year is your 601? Instruments? Have you flown other LSA's?

Thanks!

PJ

rcpilot
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby rcpilot » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:17 pm

It was built in 2004. It has basic instruments, altimeter, vertical speed, airspeed, RPM, oil pressure, oil temp, water temp, fuel right and left, ammeter. I have a portable GPS that interfaces with the autopilot but we're somewhat suspicious it's not working correctly(the autopilot). Electric trim switches.

rsteele
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby rsteele » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:34 pm

I'm building a 601, very nearly done. I've had transition training. I know at least one other in this forum who doesn't enjoy flying the 6xx, but I had a blast in training. It's just a very simple airplane to fly. Ground handling is exceptional. It's very stable transitioning from ground to air and back. I found it stable in the air. Some have complained about light elevator/heavy aileron forces, but this didn't bother me after about two minutes. Some planes have a modified aileron bell crank that reduces aileron control effort, but at the expense of increased stick movement (as you might expect).

I learned to fly in a Tecnam Echo Super, which is known to be very easy to fly. I found the 601 I trained in to be much easier to land as it does't float the way the Tecnam does. Because the Tecnam has an anti-servo tab on the elevator, it has better control harmony. However in the Tecnam you could wear out your right leg on the rudder doing touch-and-gos and the 601 requires much less rudder input.

The 601/650 has a lot of interior room. I can't even get into a RV-12, or RV-7 but i'm pretty comfortable in the 601. Interior space was my original reason to choose this plane.

Last I looked there were some good deals on low wing Zeniths. You can probably buy one for the cost of the kit + engine + instruments. Not to discourage a potential builder. If you decide to build, I can't say enough about the folks at Zenith. Great support. I suggest visiting them in Mexico Mo. and taking the "Rudder Class". I visited, but didn't take the class and I really wish I had.

You asked about instruments. Mine has Dynon EFIS/GPS, Dynon radio and Dynon 2axis AP and Great Lakes engine instruments. This may be overkill for such a plane, but I consider the AP a safety feature and this setup seemed the most sensible way to get it.


Ron

pjdavis
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby pjdavis » Wed Oct 19, 2016 4:05 pm

Hi Ron,

Thank you for your input. How long have you been building the 601? What is the difference between the 601 and the 650?

PJ

rsteele
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby rsteele » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:13 pm

pjdavis wrote:Hi Ron,

Thank you for your input. How long have you been building the 601? What is the difference between the 601 and the 650?

PJ

8 years. This is far from typical. Daughter in colllege so money delays, got caught out by the upgrade etc.

The 650 has:
a "sportier" looking rudder, no functional difference

Wing incedence is slightly different to give better forward view in the 650.

Biggest difference is the canopy and canopy of latch. The 601 has a one piece canopy, the 650 is split towards the rear with the rear section supported by something resembling a roll bar. The 650 latch has the movable bits in the fuselage and the fixed posts in the canopy. The 601 has the movable bits in the canopy and the posts on the fuselage. The 650 arrangement is better, simpler. Both should have an auxiliary safety device (like a strap) to insure it doesn't open in flight.

Wing tips in the 650 are one big piece of fiberglass. The 601 is a small fiberglass nose piece and a larger flat piece of aluminum.

There is no doubt the 650 is superior, all else being equal. Nearly always, any other thing like the panel, paint, interior and engine are going to be far more important.

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MrMorden
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby MrMorden » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:54 am

I don't want to be the one to splash cold water on the 601, but...

I did my first 20 hours in a 601XL. I never really cared for it much, it was twitchy (especially in pitch) and didn't handle particularly well to me. But many people say that of all LSA, so that's just personal opinion.

What is fact, is that the 601XL had emergency ADs put against them by the FAA following five accidents involving wing structural failure that killed a total of seven people. This was in a brief 2-3 year period. The entire time Zenith blamed the pilots and builders, and said there nothing wrong with the airframe. Finally the FAA stepped in, grounded all 601XLs, and conducted an engineering review of the airplane. They found the engineering of the wing structure used incorrect load assumptions, and the structure was inadequate to maintain integrity at as little as 2.5g loadings.

Zenith designed a structural fix kit, but made the owners pay for it, and in the case of SLSA versions made the owners pay for labor as well, to the tune of about $5000. So the owners had to pay a lot of additional cost for Zenith's shitty engineering, just to get an airplane that flew to the designed limits. Fixed airplanes are now often called 601XL-B versions.

The older 601HD and 601HDS models seem to have no problems. The 650 shares the 601XL's original design. Personally, based on the poor engineering, denial of issues, and terrible customer service, you'll probably never get me in another Zenith airplane. Look at the sales prices of Zeniths and you'll see they have lost a ton of value and sell for peanuts as a result of all this.

If you are looking for a better alternative in the same price range, I suggest a Sonex. It's a bit smaller, but is also faster, handles much better, and is built like a tank with +6g/-3g limits. The Sonex and 601 have approximately the same wingspan. The 601XL has six ribs per wing, the Sonex has THIRTEEN. In structure testing, the Sonex wing failed at an equivalent load at gross weight of 10.5g -- it's crazy over-engineered. The company also has great support and customer service.
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

Wm.Ince
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby Wm.Ince » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:21 am

Good report, Andy.
Thank you for posting.
Bill Ince
CTSW
Retired Heavy Equipment Operator

rcpilot
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby rcpilot » Fri Oct 21, 2016 1:10 pm

So Andy, what do you really think of the 601? :wink: Since I was buying mine with the intentions of training, you can imagine I did a lot of research. Yes, I saw stories about the wing failures and that they finally came up with a fix. Yes you need to buy one that has the "B" mod installed. And, with any airplane and probably especially an experimental, you probably want to invest the time/money in a proper pre-buy inspection if you're getting one already built. I did not see anyone complaining about the handling characteristics of the plane. I find it easy to fly(maybe it's just my ignorance) but I have over 70 hours/20 solo and I don't really see anything that worries me. Yes, you can get one at a good price and the better equipped ones are still under $50K. I'm on the Zenith forum and don't see any current complaints about their customer service so it looks like those issues were in the past.

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MrMorden
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby MrMorden » Fri Oct 21, 2016 1:28 pm

rcpilot wrote:So Andy, what do you really think of the 601? :wink: Since I was buying mine with the intentions of training, you can imagine I did a lot of research. Yes, I saw stories about the wing failures and that they finally came up with a fix. Yes you need to buy one that has the "B" mod installed. And, with any airplane and probably especially an experimental, you probably want to invest the time/money in a proper pre-buy inspection if you're getting one already built. I did not see anyone complaining about the handling characteristics of the plane. I find it easy to fly(maybe it's just my ignorance) but I have over 70 hours/20 solo and I don't really see anything that worries me. Yes, you can get one at a good price and the better equipped ones are still under $50K. I'm on the Zenith forum and don't see any current complaints about their customer service so it looks like those issues were in the past.


I hope you're right. And it doesn't matter if I like your airplane, it only matters that you do! :)

I do have strong opinions on these airplanes. I was training in an unmodified 601XL when they started folding up and killing people, and Zenith was denying any problem. I probably took it a little personally, which I tend to do when I think folks have put me in danger. But as you said, I have not heard of any recent issues, I just have the lingering bad taste.

Making the owners pay big money for the fix seemed like rubbing salt in the wound. Contrast this with Sonex. They had a single Waiex (Y-tailed Sonex) fatal accident that included a structural failure of the tail. Even though there was no evidence of a design defect (it is likely the airplane was grossly overstressed before the tail separation), Sonex immediately engaged with the NTSB to determine what went wrong. Within a week they had a kit to reinforce the Y-tailed models, and shipped all the parts out for free to all Waiex owners in their database. Again, this was in spite of the NTSB not having any evidence of an engineering problem. That is the way to run an aircraft company.
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

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Scooper
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby Scooper » Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:40 pm

I'm nearly a year late to the conversation, but I'll throw in my $.02.

In September, 2006, I let my special issuance 3rd class medical expire because I was tired of the hassles and expenses in keeping the special issuance. I sold my C-172 and bought a CH601XL quick build kit and Jabiru 3300 engine and firewall forward kit. Then the inflight breakups started and I decided to wait until the design issues got resolved before beginning construction. As @MrMorden explained in his post, Chris Heintz denied the design was at fault, but the fatalities kept mounting. The Europeans grounded the 601XL - followed by the FAA - pending a thorough investigation and recommended modifications to prevent further accidents. A major study of the accidents and their potential causes by the NTSB, FAA, European aviation agencies, and a number of independent aeronautical engineering consultants resulted in structural modifications and the addition of aileron mass balance weights to prevent flutter. The CH601XL is probably the most thoroughly analyzed LSA design since the 2004 ASTM LSA rule was published, and airplanes with the 2010 "B mod" have an enviable safety record.

In May, 2016, I purchased a used 2008 AMD CH601XLi-B SLSA with less than 100 hours TTE and AF. The B modifications had been made by a certified repair station. Last December I worked with a DAR and the Oakland FSDO to change the certification from SLSA to ELSA and obtained my FAA LSA Repairman-Inspection certificate. I've been a certificated private pilot ASEL since 1964, and of the dozens of types I've flown this is one of the sweetest handling airplanes. I love it, and am confident in the integrity of the design after the B modifications have been made. Because of the accident history, prices for 601XLs, even those with the B mod, make them bargains.

I had my BasicMed physical examination and self-assessment test in May, so now I can fly at night.

YMMV.

Image

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- Stan
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Experimental AMD CH601XL-B LSA N601KE (KOAK)

rcpilot
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby rcpilot » Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:30 am

That's a good looking Zenith. Enjoy.

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FastEddieB
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby FastEddieB » Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:47 am

Welcome!

Cool plane, and I like the panel.

We seem to have followed similar paths. I'm a commercial pilot and CFI. I bought a new Sky Arrow in 2007 and let my medical expire not long after, due to the hassle and expense of annually recurring SI's for kidney stones. Took it Experimental in 2009, and got my LSRM-I. Have done all the annual condition inspections since, and nearly all the maintenance. I did the BasicMed thing in May.

As an aside, to my understanding the BasicMed lifts all the pilot-related limitations. What I mean is that not only can you fly at night, but also above 10,000', without visual contact with the surface, without the more restrictive visibility requirement (3 miles). Of course, the aircraft-related Limitations remain firmly in place.

If you ever find yourself in or around N GA or E TN, be sure to stop by and say hi!
Fast Eddie B.
Sky Arrow 600 E-LSA • N467SA
FastEddieB@mac.com

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Scooper
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Re: Zenith CH 601 / 650B Opinions

Postby Scooper » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:31 am

FastEddieB wrote:
As an aside, to my understanding the BasicMed lifts all the pilot-related limitations. What I mean is that not only can you fly at night, but also above 10,000', without visual contact with the surface, without the more restrictive visibility requirement (3 miles). Of course, the aircraft-related Limitations remain firmly in place.

If you ever find yourself in or around N GA or E TN, be sure to stop by and say hi!

Hi Eddie,

Of course you're right. I emphasized night flying because flying as a sport pilot several times I would find myself bucking higher than forecast headwinds on a long cross-country, landing short of my destination and spending the night in a hotel because it was getting dark.

I replied to your PM. Please let me know if you got it (the Control Panel says it's still in my outbox after I sent it).
- Stan
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Experimental AMD CH601XL-B LSA N601KE (KOAK)


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