ARTICLE REPRINT: The Flyer - Oshkosh'98 Follow-Up

Oshkosh 1998 Follow-Up:
Zenith unveils CH 801, and a variant on the
CH 601 Zodiac

It didn't make it to Sun 'n Fun, and builders haven't read too much about it. But the Internet is abuzz about the new CH 801 from Zenith Aircraft, and the new plane made its debut at AirVenture '98.

In fact, Zenith introduced two new designs at this year's fly-in, the second being another variant on its highly successful CH 601 Zodiac design. The new model is called the 601 XL.

The four-seat CH 801 is an amazing new design that will fill an important niche in the homebuilt market. A large machine with a useful load of more than 1,000 pounds, the 801 looks like an upscale version of the unique little CH 701, Chris Heintz' all-metal STOL aircraft.

Although based on this very popular model, which is certified in Canada and Israel, the 801 is a completely redesigned hybrid, using many of the familiar characteristics inherent in the smaller sibling.

STOL CH 801 at EAA Oshkosh 1998
STOL CH 801 at EAA Oshkosh 1998

It isn't just the dimensions or the number of seat belts that are different. The 801's heavier airframe and impressive capacity demanded a number of structural changes, including a longer wing, stronger landing gear, thicker skins in a number of areas, and the use of a new engine.

The fact that it uses a shouldered wing, boxy structure, fixed leading edge slats, wing fences and simplistic pull rivet attaching system only means that Chris Heintz has decided that some of the proven features of his original design are an important consideration when the responsibility of two more seats is placed on the shoulders of the pilot.

STOL CH 801 at EAA Oshkosh 1998
STOL CH 801 at EAA Oshkosh 1998

The engine of choice for the 801 is a 180 horsepower CrossFlow Aero conversion of a Subaru engine. The company makes variations of this engine ranging from 100 to 350 horsepower. With its 110-mph cruise speed, half-ton payload and 37-mph stall speed, this true STOL airplane will fill the bill of a lot of pilots who want to do more than just tour the countryside.

The redesigned, re-engined CH 601 XL is based on the Zodiac fuselage and will accommodate a number of engines ranging from the Rotax 912S to smaller Continentals, Subarus and Jabirus.

The prototype is being flown with the new six-cylinder Jabiru Model 3300. This engine, in combination with a longer, thinner wing, is providing higher cruise speeds.

ZODIAC CH 601 XL at EAA Oshkosh 1998
ZODIAC CH 601 XL at EAA Oshkosh 1998

At 2,700 rpm, the airplane was achieving 132 mph. At 3,000 rpm, about 80% power, the speed was up to 149 mph. Full throttle, 3,300 rpm, netted 163 mph, along with a slight heating problem that is being addressed at this point in the development schedule.

"There is no good reason to run the engine this hard," says Sebastian Heintz, son of Chris and president of Zenith Aircraft, "but we're working on this aspect of the installation."

Most homebuilders are familiar with Chris Heintz, the aircraft designer who designed the Robin, worked on the Concorde, and has created a devoted following in America over the past 20 years. His philosophy puts safety, not top-end performance, as the guiding factor in a design.

Zenith airplanes, even the non-STOL craft, are capable of landing, or at least alighting, in the smallest of spaces should the engine quit.

Earmarks of Heintz designs include aluminum construction (except for fairings, cowl and fillets), thick airfoils, pull rivet construction, huge landing gear, all-flying rudder and stabilator, and bubble canopies.

The new designs here include a couple of new wrinkles. The CH 601 features a hingeless aileron, which is a virtual extension of the wing upper skin. The CH 801's upside-down stabilizer uses aerodynamics, rather than a negative pitch, to load the tail.

Another recent Heintz design, the two-place, twin-engine Gemini, has been put on hold for a number of reasons, mostly because it was turning out to be too well accepted. Originally intended to be a proof-of-concept aircraft, the interest in it was so strong that it suddenly became a viable product, worthy of a complete development program of its own.

Secondly, just before the Gemini debut, an article in Popular Mechanics reported on the CH 601 Zodiac. As a result, Zenith was literally inundated with orders, which consumed nearly all of their resources.

Thirdly, Jabiru – the company that builds the 80-horsepower engines that Heintz intended to use on the Gemini – announced that it was developing a newer engine of 100 to 120 horsepower. Heintz has opted to wait until this engine is available before continuing development of the Gemini.

Interested aviators can view the CH 801 in the new North Aircraft Display Area. It's the large dark blue airplane parked by the little red Zodiac.

The price of the CH 801 has been set at $18,490, less engine, instruments and owner touches. For this you will have a true heavy hauling STOL airplane that can operate in the bush or on optional floats, and land at 43 mph in just a couple of hundred feet.


'Zenith unveils CH 801, and a variant on the CH 601 Zodiac", by Jim Cavanagh, The Flyer, August 7, 1998, Page 17. Copyright 1998, Northwest Flyer Inc.
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Zenith Aircraft Company: 2006-03-21