STOL CH 701 Sport Utility Kit Aircraft

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Migrating North...
Text and photos by Matt Brook
(November 2003)

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AustraliaApproximately a year ago my little Red flying machine was completed and test flown. I cant say that I built this little bird as it was my brother who built it as I was in South America working at the time.  The aircraft were built with the intention of flying around Australia and this is still on the cards although it will be postponed a little while as I am currently in Africa working on a construction project. 

So as a test of the type of flying that we are going to have to be doing I decided that before I was going to leave for Africa I was going to do what I think will become an annual migration north from Brisbane where our birds are based up to North Queensland .  Originally I was going to head off on my own until my friend Mario Mayerhofer had to ferry flight an Xair up to Innisfail, just south of Cairns .  So we decided that we would take off and do the trip together. 

Overall statistics of the trip, from the GPS, was 1600 nm with about 12 takeoffs and landings, 25 hours total flying time and some pretty amazing scenery. 

I can honestly say that the performance parameters of this aircraft are exceptional and when you really need performance is when she shines.  As an example I was coming in to land at St Laurance which is right on the River Styx, in central Queensland , that is not a joke either, and after a 3 hour leg was looking for the airfield. It is a small strip about 300m cut between some trees and it was on a long coastal plane before this river.  Having never flown into this strip before I had to hunt around for 10 minutes looking for the strip.  Bearing in mind it was about 3 pm and the wind was getting up to 30-40 knots at 35 deg C , from the tops of the trees it was closer to 40 than to 30, but upon overflying the airfield I realized that the wind was a perpendicular crosswind and this was going to be very un fun.  The landing was interesting to say the least, coming in with a lot of rudder and dipping my left wing into the wind took a bit off the wind flow however upon getting below the tree line there was a lot of turbulence on my right wing due to the rotor effect.  To say that I didn’t waddle around trying to land this bird would be an understatement.  I was flying with no flaps as I normally fly with no flaps, not for any reason but because I like too.  So three times I try and put her on the ground and three times the turbulence chucked me around and I couldn’t level her out in order to really power back.  I like bringing her in at about 3000 revs to give you a little bit more maneuvering power, ( I have a sweet Rotax 912, 80 hp up front) and it helps overcome the dragginess of the bird. 

Anyway after three times trying to level her wings and take it down I realized that I wasn’t going to put her down with that kind of cross wind component flying clean. So I did a go around and powered out and into the breeze and then tried the whole thing again.  To say that I wanted to get on the ground would be the understatement of the century so coming into land I put out half flaps and brought her in.  This approach was the same although I did a short steep base and a shorter final with the half flaps this is quite achievable and bled of the airspeed quite quickly.  I was about rudder and dipped my wing into the wind and watched out for the turbulence.  At about 3 m above the ground after being chucked around, I just leveled the wings nose up a bit, cut the power and hung on.  At this stage I just wanted out of the aircraft.  She held her nose up and came down with a soft bump and I was alive. 

I was expecting the gear to rip off and to be honest didn’t care about that as I just wanted to be on the ground.  This wasn’t the first time I was amazed at the performance of the aircraft but it certainly was not the last.   Taxiing up to the parking area, there is nothing at this strip not even a dunny, I found Mario and his mate there with big grins on his face and I got a couple of ribbings but my bird was OK and I am here to tell the tale. 

Apart from this little excitement the other things that happened were getting stuck in a BAD leeside rotor with 1800 ft /min sink rate and then climb rates.  At one stage this turbulence was that bad that I let go of the throttle and held onto the handle and hang on.  Being snapped to 60 deg bank 4 times in opposite directions sequentially  by turbulence going over a hot ridge at 2 pm when it is 35 deg c heading into the previously mentioned 40 knot wind.  You know you are having a good day flying when you have bad bruising on your guts from the harness and your head has hit the roof a couple of times. What was the maximum negative G loading again?

I also had to a hot and heavy takeoff into a 30 knot wind when it was 33 deg c on an unserviceable runway with small trees about 60m as the alternative was a take off with a perpendicular crosswind, not something that you want to do on a really hot day.  That was quite interesting as it was make or break time and I only had one shot at that one.   The engine was quite warm I had a full load of fuel and about 30kgs of baggage.  Jam on the brakes half flaps and hit the gas and call rolling.  Give her 30m and then pull up and hope you don’t hit the trees..   After that take off, I have no idea why I got to about 400ft, on a full power climb out and then all of a sudden stopped climbing and she started floating down like a duck coming into land.  As I was taking off into the wind I knew that once I turned out of the wind I was a goner and would lose what ever airflow I was getting over my wings.  So I just held her nose up and watched the trees, I was under 500ft so my training took over and looked forward for somewhere to land and then seeing no where I just held her nose up and kept floating down.  After a while whatever down draft I was caught in subsided and that trusty VSI got to neutral and then back up to 500ft and with only 200 ft to spare I was happy to be alive, again. 

So that was the unfun stuff that happened on the trip.  The fun stuff was pure flying at its best, empty skies, very few people on the radio and flying over gods back yard.  What a blast…  After doing 25 hours inside 5 days, with one day rest in the middle I really felt I got to know my bird and the sky.  If you are going to do some serious long distance flying then you need that extra 5-10 knots of cruise.  My bird cruises at about 60knots depending on how many revs you squeeze into her.  With Avgas the Rotax 912 is a sweet sweet engine.  All up it was a pretty amazing vacation and I cant wait to do it again.   The long range fuel tanks make all the difference and I would encourage everyone to put them in their birds. With Avgas and the long range tanks could fly for 5.5 hours with an hour to spare.  That is a long time and my longest leg was 4 hours.  At the end of 4 hours you are ready to get out but it is better to have options. 

But the thing that struck me the most about my amazing little bird is that she gives you options.  When the pucker factor is off the scale and you are in conditions that don’t give you lots of options the performance envelope of this aircraft gives you those options.  Options in aviation are the kind of things that when you really need them you REALLY  need them.

A couple of other things that happened were a couple of hot with the wind landings with a  crosswind component that were also unfun. 

But apart from the bad stuff the pictures and the experience were beyond words.  There is a whole lot of clean sky in Northern Queensland with not many people flying into it.  I can't wait to fly around the land "down under" in my little 701 with my brother, which will happen when I finish this project, as I have the perfect plane for bush flying.   I have to express my deepest gratitude to my brother for building me my little plane and thanks to Zenith for making such an amazing bird.

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Note: Many of these images show customer-built aircraft, some of which have been modified without the designer's specific approval. Modifications will affect the specifications and performance of the aircraft.


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