On A Mission
With The STOL CH 801
Every year, I come
across stories of a Zenith project that just amaze me and the rest
of the staff here at Zenith Aircraft. More often than not, the
people behind these projects aren't the types who blow their own
horn or who seek special recognition, they just do what they do
because they have a dream, and the passion and commitment to making
that dream come true.
Some years, we've
seen school projects accomplished under unbelievably challenging
circumstances; other times, it's been a remarkably motivated EAA
Chapter that embarks on an ambitious club project. We have heard of
major cross country flights flown by physically handicapped builders
and pilots; read about humanitarian flights in Africa, flights
across the South China sea, an attempted round-the world flight, and
many more... Have you had a chance to read about of the numerous
races flown (and won) by both 701s and 601s in Italy ; and read
about the anti-poaching efforts over Kenya 's vast wilderness?
This year, one of most exceptional stories we heard was shared at
this summer's annual Zenith "Builders dinner" at the
about this story is that it's not limited to the past tense, and
it also doesn't just involve the builder/pilot. In fact, we hope
that after hearing this tale yourself, you'll be sufficiently
moved and inspired to get personally involved in the project too. It's
so simple and takes so little to make a difference. We at Zenith
Aircraft heartily endorse and support this initiative.
Zenith Aircraft Company
and the STOL CH 801:
Mike Dawson and Art Mitchell with the first STOL CH 801 kit
The Dawson family, Art Mitchell and the 801 in Venezuela:
Running up the engine...
STOL CH 701 on
STOL CH 701 on
The grounded STOL CH 801
today... without an engine.
Mike Dawson's Story:
"Mike, you need to start flying to these villages," I told
myself. After two utterly exhausting days, we had finally arrived at the
tiny village of Wasareco by dugout canoe; I was staring at the face of
my portable GPS. If you had asked me just then roughly how far we had
traveled, I would have figured: Two days in the dugout (with outboard
motor), assuming we had been going at least 10 miles an hour, for
roughly 12 hours a day, that's 2 x 10 x 12 = 240 miles, give or take a
few. Imagine my surprise (shock!) then, when, with the marvel of GPS, I
discovered that our home base was only 36.9 air miles away! I could not
believe it! That was in 1997.
I began to research the alternatives soon
afterward. My criteria were:
- Had to be cheap.
- Had to be able to land and take off on very short
- Had to be cheap.
Well, it did not take long to figure out that there was nothing out
there that fit that bill! Anything that could land and take off in less
than 1000 feet cost more than I even cared to think about. I had about
given up, when our mission director told me about the ultralight and
experimental airplane movement. After one flight in an Aircam I was
hooked, but it did not have the room I was looking for. We get into some
very remote areas out here, and there are always sick people that need
to be taken out for medical care. I would hate to have to fly out just
the sick person, so I wanted something that could carry out at least a
third person. This way, the sick person would have someone from his or
her own village to be with them. In July 1998 we went to Oshkosh, and
the first booth I went to was Zenith's, wondering how hard it would be
to put a third seat in the CH 701. My wife, Keila and I rounded the last
corner and stopped short, stunned: there sat what looked like a 701 on
steroids! It was just what we were looking for. Massive gear, high-lift
wing, and 4 seats!
We started building our STOL CH 801 with Art Mitchell at the Flypass
hangar in Canada, and shortly thereafter took the pre-assembled plane to
Venezuela. What a hassle it was working through the Venezuelan
government red tape to get it registered! Finally, though, the day came
when we had our airworthiness certificate! What a day! To finally fly
this amazing plane into the jungle!
The 801 was a real blessing. As a matter of fact, one of my first
flights was into a village that normally takes me three 12-hour days to
get there. I made it with the airplane in 16 minutes. We were able to
use it on many emergency flights. One of the most memorable so far was
with a woman in labor: She was not doing well at all. We quickly got the
plane ready and got her and her husband strapped in. I was afraid she
might have the baby in the plane, so did a quicker- than- normal
preflight... Thankfully, we made it down to the hospital in time. Her
condition had been worse than initially realized. The doctor came out
and told me afterward that had we not gotten her there as quickly as we
had, both mother and baby would have died.
Not every flight was this harrowing though. Some days were
particularly enjoyable: on my errands between the different
villages, I occasionally had an empty seat or two. As there were
always Yanomamo children hanging around every time I opened my
hangar doors, I was able to take many of them with me on those
flights. What a look came over their faces as they looked out over
their vast jungle from so high. You should have seen their smiles as
we came back to their villages! Could one or two of these Yanomamo
youths some day become a pilot?
For a while, the plane was a tremendous blessing to our work: a
flying 'workhorse'! Then, the engine began to show signs of
troubles. After months of unsuccessful attempts at resolving the
issues, it became clear that we would need a different engine.
Because the jungle is not a place to have an engine-out situation,
we agreed that a factory-new powerplant was really the only way to
go. And so the search for a new engine began...
The irony of the situation is that now, being back to the 12-hour
days on the river, I have less time than ever to devote to the
engine search and/or to solicit support. It has been awfully hard to
go back to the two or three days by dugout canoe when we used to fly
to these different villages in 15 to 30 minutes. Still, the plane
has now been grounded for close to two years, as we still don't
have an engine for it.
In the summer of 2005, I was again very fortunate to make it to
Oshkosh for EAA AirVenture. As a STOL CH 801 builder and pilot, I
attended the Zenith Builder's dinner and was invited to share my
story. The reception was wonderful: fellow builders were receptive
and compassionate and the Heintz family pledged to share my plight
with others until that elusive engine could be found. Also, Art
Mitchell, our original builder, agreed to act as our contact person
here in North America , while my family and I continue our
humanitarian work in the jungles of Venezuela.
We are certainly grateful for any help we receive! On behalf of
myself, my wife Keila, our children and the Yanomamo people we work
with here on a daily basis, please accept our deepest and most
heartfelt thanks for any and all support, be it prayers, encouraging
letters or engine funds.
Contact addresses are:
PO Box 02-8537
Miami, FL 33102-8537 USA
Mission Address for tax deductible receipt:
Christian Light Foundation
PO Box 23881
Jacksonville, FL 32241-3881
Memo on check: "for airplane engine in Venezuela"
The following by Art
Mitchell provides additional background information on this
fascinating project. With more details on the aircraft, the old (as well
as the new) engine, it also outlines a plan of action for the future and
ends with a solicitation for your assistance.
"PASSION WITH A PURPOSE"
The Venezuela STOL CH 801 project.
Since you are reading this, you, like me, are likely someone with a
passion for aviation. Why else would you be challenging gravity, the
weather and your bank account? You know that it is futile to try to
explain our desire to fly to a ground lover.
We do it because we need to, want to, have to, that's all!
You know, of course, that aircraft have become useful for more than
just showing the mother-in-law that we can scare her (and ourselves) and
showing the neighbors that we can do something that they can't. Light
aircraft are a great way to get from place to place, to transport people
and materials into areas where ground travel is difficult, and to
respond to emergencies.
Some of you know that I flew in the mountainous jungle of central
Africa for several years as part of an organization called Mission
Aviation Fellowship (MAF). Some trips that regularly took me less than
an hour would take over a week on foot. There were no roads or even
navigable rivers, so the only way to get there was by walking or flying
in my little Cessna 185. I saw first hand the incredible difference an
airplane could make in the lives of those people.
Wouldn't you love to be part of something like that? Imagine if
someone could use something like a CH 801 to make a huge improvement in
the lives of people suffering in the remote regions of some place like
the Amazon! Well, there is someone attempting to do just that. Read on!
Many of you have already heard of the STOL CH 801 that has been used
in the jungle of Venezuela . That plane was built in my hangars several
years ago, largely by volunteers. I later went to South America to help
finish the project and do the test flying. The people there are used to
other certificated aircraft like the Cessna 206s but you should have
seen their response when they saw that STOL machine climb into the air!
The owner/pilot, Michael Dawson took the plane down into the jungle,
where he lives and was using it to fly into little "airstrips" that
other planes would not land on. He would use it to evacuate sick and
dying people and bring others out for training. Without the plane it
would take several days by dugout canoe and in many cases the people
were just out of reach, period. What a difference that little plane
When we built it we installed a Walter LOM, 210 hp, inline, inverted
engine into it. It is a good engine but we - and others - found that
problems with the fuel pump system showed up in the tropics. Also, since
no one there had any experience with that engine, there was no way to
get any local service. The engine was removed and the plane was put
away. Since then, that poor bird has been sitting in its little hangar
out in the jungle while people continue to suffer. It is even worse now,
having seen what a wonderful thing it could be.
This year at Oshkosh, Michael Dawson came by the Zenith display and
left a DVD that he had made in Venezuela . It showed him and some of the
Indian men taking two 40-foot dugout canoes two and a half days up river
through raging rapids to retrieve the airframe of a Cessna 185 that had
flipped over on a little jungle strip. It is an amazing DVD and you can
have a copy by requesting it with your contribution. Yes contribution!
But please read on.
The morning after the Heintz family saw the DVD I dropped by the
Zenith display and they were buzzing. As soon as he saw me Sebastien
said "Art, did you see that DVD? We have got to get Michael flying
again. That plane is really needed. What can we at Zenith do?" After
some discussion with the team, Michael and myself, we determined that
the plane needed a proven O-360 and preferably the XP. Auto fuel is cheap down
there and Avgas is really hard to get. Zenith would provide all the
parts that they manufacture from the firewall forward, including a new
firewall with nosegear assembly. They would pre-assemble it complete and ready to install and
would even like to send one of their people down to install and test it.
That is a major contribution!
SO HERE'S THE DEAL!
We plan to acquire a factory-new Superior
O-360, prop and
are approaching everyone but particularly Zenith Aircraft builders,
owners, pilots and enthusiasts. Who better knows what great planes these are? Who better
understands what they are capable of? Who else has the heart to see
their own passion being used for something so worthwhile?
I don't have the space to tell you of the incredible things that
have been accomplished since 1953 when Michael's parents first went to
that remote part of the jungle. They raised ten children there and all
of them are still involved in that work with their parents. What a
of the Rain Forest" and "All The Day
two books written about them. Either of those books and/or the DVD mentioned
above will be sent to any donor who requests it. All U.S. gifts are tax
deductible if sent to: Christian Light Foundation, PO Box 23881,
Jacksonville, FL 32241-3881. (Mention on the memo line of your
check: "For airplane engine in Venezuela").
Maybe you can't use your plane to rescue a snake-bitten Indian
child or to bring medicine to a village where people are dying of
malaria, but you can be part of this exciting project. It will make you
feel a whole lot better while you are enjoying your own beautiful Zenith
airplane. Let's make it happen!