ZODIAC CH 601 Series Kit Plane




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Answers to Common Questions about the ZODIAC


If you have a question that's not covered below, email us for a quick response. Continue checking this page, as we'll be adding new common Q&A's as they're received.

  • Click here for information about the Sport Pilot category

Why should I build an all-metal aircraft?

What engines besides the Rotax 912 can I use?
Can the ZODIAC be equipped for IFR?
Can the wings be removed?
What about cabin size and baggage area?
Is the ZODIAC suitable for aerobatics?
What kind of fuel tanks are available?
What about cabin ventilation?

How long will it really take me to build my ZODIAC?

What tools and skills will I need to build the ZODIAC?
What kind of workshop is required?
What's the most difficult part about building the ZODIAC kit?
What's NOT included in the kit?
Is the ZODIAC aircraft FAA-approved?

How much does the kit cost?

If I build from scratch (plans-only), how much will it cost me?
What's the resale value of a ZODIAC?


Why should I build an all-metal aircraft?

  • Metal construction is the most prevalent aircraft construction material by all measures, used extensively from jetliners to light aircraft and homebuilts over the past five decades. Metal construction is best described as "aluminum-alloy, semi-monocoque, stressed skin construction."
    All-metal construction has many inherent advantages that are unique to aluminum alloys:
  • Metal construction is certainly proven, with vast existing documentation on its properties.
  • Low weight / high strength
  • Corrosion resistance of new modern alloys
  • Proven durability and resistance to sun and moisture
  • Low cost and widespread availability
  • Easy to work with: requires simple tools and skills
  • No messy doping, mixing compounds, toxins, etc. in building an all-metal aircraft
  • Easy to inspect, due to "open" construction
  • Simple to repair and maintain

While it's true that all-metal aircraft construction can be complex and time-consuming (most are!), it's equally true that all-metal aircraft can be quick and easy to build. The ZODIAC design takes the inherent advantages of metal construction, while making it very simple and quick to build - using single curvature sheet metal, modern 6061-T6 aluminum alloys, and Textron's Avex blind rivets, which are as easy to set as 'pop' rivets.
In the kit, all parts and components that require special skills or tools are done at the factory, so that a builder is really just 'assembling' an aircraft: lining up the parts, drilling, and riveting. It's really that simple.
Virtually all aircraft use some sheet metal construction, whether an instrument panel on a composite plane, or a firewall on a tube and fabric design, therefore all builders of all aircraft types need basic sheet-metal tools and skills. With the ZODIAC, that's all the tools and skills you'll need to build and complete the entire airframe. As such, the ZODIAC kit is probably one of the easiest and quickest kit aircraft to build on the market today. Once the aircraft is completed, an owner is assured of a long airframe life with minimal maintenance:

  • Suitability for continuous outdoor storage
  • Easy to inspect thoroughly
  • Easy maintenance & repair (you or any mechanic can do this).
    Zenith Aircraft has extensive experience working exclusively with all-metal construction, and has developed and perfected a construction technique that not only provides strong and efficient designs, but that makes them quick and easy to build, while maintaining all the advantages of an all-metal aircraft.
  • SEE ALSO: All-Metal Construction Made Easy


What engines, besides the Rotax 912, can I use?

  • The ZODIAC is one of the few kit planes not designed 'around' an engine, making it suitable for different engine installations. In fact, the first ZODIAC prototype first flew with a VW conversion back in 1984.
    We provide the Rotax 912 / 912S engine because we believe it is currently the best powerplant choice for this particular design, providing good power to weight (ratio), reliability, and performance. Rotax engines are also readily available around the world, and parts and servicing is also readily available. The Rotax powerplant packages we supply are provided as full "firewall-forward" packages that are ready to install, making engine installation quick and easy.
    However, this does not limit the builders' choice to Rotax engines only. We now also supply a firewall-forward package for the EA-81 Subaru conversion from Stratus Inc. The ZODIAC airframe is designed to accommodate powerplants ranging from 65 to 115 HP, with a max. installed weight of 265 lbs. Other engines that have or are being customer installed include:
    - Continental (C65 to O-200)
    - Subaru EA-81 conversions (supplied by Stratus, Formula Power, and others)
    - Volkswagen (VW) conversion
    - Jabiru 3300
    ...and more.

    The new ZODIAC XL is designed to accommodate slightly larger engines than the previous ZODIAC models.  Recommended power for the ZODIAC XL is 100 to 125 hp, up to 300 lbs. installed weight, including the Lycoming O-235 (116-hp) engine.

    Our specification and performance figures are based on the Rotax 912 installation. Other engines affect these performance and spec figures.
    Quite often, more power does not necessarily equate to better performance: important considerations include weight (power to weight ratio), fuel consumption, torque, etc.
    An engine is only as good as its installation in a particular aircraft, and a proper installation requires significant testing and time. First-time builders are urged to install proven firewall-forward packages - minimizing time and headaches.
    ZODIAC builders don't need to decide ahead of time what engine to install when they start the kit. Most builders buy their engine later when ready for installation.


Can the ZODIAC be equipped for IFR?

  • Yes, the ZODIAC can be equipped for IFR (instrument flight), and in fact many builders have installed custom IFR panels. However, light aircraft like the ZODIAC don't make ideal IFR platforms, and the cost of IFR avionics can add a lot to the cost of the aircraft. Most ZODIAC builders equip their aircraft for VFR only, and install custom avionics as needed. A hand-held COM radio and hand-held GPS are often the only avionics used, keeping the price affordable and installation simple.
    See the Photo Gallery for sample panels.


Can the wings be removed?

  • YES, the wings are easy to remove for storage or towing. The wings are detachable at the fuselage center section (where the wing dihedral starts). Two screws remove a sheet-metal cover, which gives access to the spars. Four main spar bolts, one rear spar channel bolt, and an aileron bolt hold each wing in place. Once the wings are removed, the fuselage sits on the aircraft's gear, making it easy to store or trailer.
    [ZODIAC XL:  The new ZODIAC XL model does not have a center wing section, but the wing are equally easy to remove].
    Trailering an aircraft on a regular basis is not very practical for most, regardless of how easy the wings are to fold or remove. One of the main advantages to owning your own aircraft is the freedom to fly when you want to.  Having to first trailer and attach wings uses up time that you would otherwise use flying.
    With its all-metal airframe, many owners keep their aircraft tied-down outdoors, saving the cost of hangering the aircraft.  Thanks to its rugged gear, many owners operate out of private grass strips, where tie-down fees are usually very affordable.


What about cabin size and baggage area?

  • The ZODIAC cabin and baggage areas provide plently of space, especially when compared to other light aircraft in its size class. See ZODIAC CABIN for complete details on the cabin and baggage areas.


Can I fly aerobatics with the ZODIAC?

  • The ZODIAC is not designed as an aerobatic airplane - it's designed more for stability than for aerobatic maneuverability. However, the design is stressed a full +/- 6 g's and the controls are quite responsive. Of course, any aerobatics require proper training and equipment.


What kind of fuel tanks are available?

  • The ZODIAC has a standard 16 US gallon header tank, located between the firewall and instrument panel. Wing tanks (2 x 7.5 gal.) are also available for the wing baggage lockers, to supplement the header tank.
    A smaller header tank is also available (8 gal), providing increased depth behind the panel for avionics. Also, wing tanks only may be installed, instead of the header tank, using new wing leading edge fuel tanks. CG considerations (i.e. weight of engine) may affect the choice of fuel systems.
  • The new ZODIAC XL uses dual wing leading edge tanks (12 US gallons each) as the standard fuel system.


What about cabin ventilation and heat?

  • The ZODIAC features a tinted bubble canopy to provide outstanding unobstructed 360-degree visibility. While it can get hot on the inside (on the ground with the prop stopped), a standard fresh air vent (through the firewall) provides a steady stream of fresh air into the cabin as soon as the prop is spinning. For cold weather operation, a muffler heat shroud provides cabin heat via the fresh air vent. Additional ventilation can be added with "naca" vents on the cabin sides or fresh air scoops in the canopy.


How long will it really take me to build my ZODIAC?

  • Only you can really answer that question, as we can't tell you how well you work, how experienced and skilled you are, or what your work habits are. However, average build times for the airframe and standard Rotax engine installation average about one year, or about 400 hours. This figure (400 hours) is the actual building time, and not the time you may spend cleaning your workshop, polishing parts, or 'thinking' about working.
    If you can spend a few hours every few evenings and maybe a full day on the weekend, the project shouldn't take longer than a year to complete. Working on the project consistently will help you make progress quickly. Any custom modifications, such as a custom engine installation, always seems to add quite a bit of time.


What tools and skills will I need to build the ZODIAC?

  • If you're building from the kit, only very basic tools and skills are required. With the kit, all parts or components that require special skills or tools are done for you at the factory. You'll need an electric hand drill, a hand 'pop'-type rivet puller, Clecos temporary fasteners, a tape measure, sheet-metal snips, files, wrenches, and not much else.
    The airframe kit takes straight-forward and basic assembly work to put together using only simple tools.
    Importantly, virtually no jigs and fixtures are needed in the building process, as all sections are built up from the flat workbench. A bending brake, shear pneumatic rivet hammer or other machinery is not needed, and assembly is easily done in a single car garage or basement workshop.
    While previous aircraft building experience and sheet-metal skills are always an asset, the ZODIAC kit and assembly instructions have been developed specifically for the inexperienced novice builder. In fact, an overwhelming number of ZODIAC builders are building their very first aircraft. The simplicity of construction, quality of parts and components, and the completeness of the kit translates into low build-times and a very high kit completion ratio, even for novice builders.
  • SEE ALSO: Required Tools and Workshop


What kind of workshop is required?

  • Only a level work table is required (about 10' x 4'). Most builders put all the sections together in a single car garage or basement workshop. The assembly process is 'modular' - each section is built individually, meaning that a large work area is really not required until the very end, when the wings and tail sections are attached to the fuselage center section.
    The ZODIAC builder can start assembly right away after taking delivery of the kit. Working from a flat table, the builder can immediately begin to build the wings - simply by measuring, drilling and riveting, and thus progress through the whole airframe section by section, aided by the detailed blue prints, step-by-step manual and visual photo guides supplied with the kit. Building the all-metal ZODIAC is straight forward, requiring no complex jigs, and no messy (and hazardous) doping or epoxy work is involved. With the proven and simple all-metal construction technique, the ZODIAC builder does not have to worry about having a temperature controlled dust-free workshop environment, and does not have to mix compounds and wait for parts to cure.
  • SEE ALSO: Required Tools and Workshop


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What's the most difficult part about building the ZODIAC kit?

  • You'll find it most difficult getting started on the project.   While you won't need special skills or tools, knowing how and where to start is probably the biggest challenge you'll face with a kit project, and you'll likely be overwhelmed by the scope of the project at first. 
    However, once you've drilled that first hole and realized that you're only working on a small section of the aircraft, you'll find that everything is starting to come together - literally.

    The following is an actual quote from a first-time ZODIAC builder who had a hard time getting started:
    "Finally got past the jitters and have started construction. What a great project!!!"

    To help bypass initial "getting started" difficulty, we recommend that first-time builders attend a factory workshop - where they'll gain hands-on building experience, and pick up a lot of building tips and hints.  If you can't attend a workshop, expect to have difficulty getting started with the project.  However, don't despair - the above quote is very typical.


What's NOT included in the kit?

  • The ZODIAC kit is complete: landing gear, wheels, hydraulic brake system, fiberglass wing tips, control systems, welded aluminum fuel tank, etc., are standard equipment in the complete airframe kit. Every part, component and sub-assembly is made only from quality materials, passed through a strict quality control program before being shipped to the customer. With the addition of the 'firewall-forward' Rotax powerplant and instruments package, the builder gets everything needed to build and fly the ZODIAC aircraft.
    Items not included in the kit are the exterior paint, cabin upholstery, and battery.
    In the kit, all the wing ribs and fuselage bulkheads are supplied pre-formed. For example, the internal wing ribs are first press-formed, with lightening holes cut and flanged, and then hand finished at the factory for a perfect ready-to-install fit. The heavy-duty wing spar comes complete with all solid (bucked) rivets already set by factory professionals. Even the spar's wing dihedral has been set to minimize the builder's need for jig fixtures. Surface skins - wings, ailerons, elevator, rudder, and fuselage - are ready for fitting, and many flat skins are supplied pre-drilled to minimize construction time.
    Pre-assembled parts (such as the wing spar) are factory-treated with zinc-chromate primer for maximum corrosion resistance. Welded parts, such as the engine mount, control assemblies, and fuel tank, come factory welded and ready to install.
  • SEE ALSO: Kit Features and Equipment List


Is the ZODIAC aircraft FAA-approved?

  • No. Kit aircraft are registered as "experimental" aircraft, and as such are not FAA 'approved' or certified.
    The ZODIAC kit meets the requirements for amateur-built (experimental) categories in the United States and Canada, as well as in most countries around the world. In the United States, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has inspected and determined that the ZODIAC kits meet FAR section 21.191(g) known as the '51% rule,' making it eligible for amateur-built registration.
    In many countries, the ZODIAC CH 601 UL is an approved "advanced ultralight" or has been certified to as a "primary" category aircraft.  Rules vary by country: Check with your local civil aviation authority and/or amateur-builder organization.


How much does the kit cost?

  • The actual kit price varies depending on which model you build. The kit includes everything for the airframe, but does not include powerplant (firewall forward) and instruments. See the Price Information for current price details. Of course, you can "finance" the kit price by buying the component kits as you build. The ZODIAC "Starter Kit" costs just $375 for the rudder tail kit - this is an introductory kit to introduce you to the assembly and building technique for the ZODIAC while actually starting to build.
  • Click here for ZODIAC XL pricing information.


How much will it cost me by the time my ZODIAC is completed and ready to fly?

  • This varies a lot with the installed powerplant and instruments / avionics. The 'standard' ZODIAC CH 601 HD (with a factory-new Rotax 912 and basic instruments) will cost about $25,000, plus a paint job and basic upholstery. Other engines will change this price, of course. Most Zodiacs flying today have between $20,000 and $30,000 invested in them. (Not bad for a brand-new all-metal aircraft!).


If I build from scratch (plans-only), how much will it cost me?

  • If you have more time than money available, scratch building is an attractive alternative to purchasing the kit. The cost depends primarily on the tools and skills you have. If you have access to a bending brake and 8-ft shear, and have the skills to make forming blocks, buck-riveting, and welding (aluminum and 4140 steel tube), you won't have any difficulty scratch-building. Typically, the cost of materials is about 40% to 50% of the airframe kit (though this varies greatly on your source for raw materials).
    If you don't have the tools and/or skills, it may cost you significantly more if you have to buy the tooling or get some of your parts custom made locally.
    If you decide to scratch build, any individual part, component or section kit can be purchased separately from the factory, such as the wing spars, fiberglass fairings, rivets, etc.


What's the resale value of a ZODIAC?

  • Resale value of kit (experimental) aircraft varies on a number of different factors. It is thus difficult, if not impossible, to forecast resale value for a particular kit aircraft.
    However, a number of factors strongly influence resale value of a kit aircraft:
    - Reputation And Popularity Of Design;
    - Operation / Service History;
    - Aircraft Type: Utility, Ease Of Flying, Configuration, etc.;
    - Workmanship And Aircraft Finish By Builder;
    - Operating Costs & Maintenance Requirements;
    - Market Conditions: Number Of Aircraft On The Market, Resale History.

    Historically, Zenith Aircraft designs have maintained excellent resale values. This can be attributed to:
    Excellent Reputation / Service History Of Aircraft;
    Durability - All-Metal Construction (used aircraft are often in 'like-new' condition);
    Ease Of Inspection - Metal Construction Can Easily Be Inspected By Any Mechanic For Structural Integrity / Workmanship (vs. composites);
    Low Operating Costs / Efficiency;
    Ease Of Flying / Good Characteristics / Capabilities;
    Market Demand - Very Few Used Ones Available;
    Availability of Manufacturer / Designer Support and Spare Parts;
    High Level Of Owner Satisfaction.
  • Used Zodiacs are hard to come by on the used market - their owners usually keep them for many years. Often, when one is sold, it's sold privately to a friend or locally - without being advertised. Used values vary from the cost of the kit and engine / equipment (low end) to premiums $5,000(or easily more) above the actual cost. If buying a used completed kit, it is your responsibility to make sure that the aircraft was constructed and maintained well by the original builder. Have the aircraft thoroughly inspected by a licensed mechanic, and make sure you get a proper check-out in the type before your first flight. As a builder, it's thus important to keep a detailed construction log and accurate maintenance records.



If you have a question that's not covered here, click here to email us for a quick response.

Note: The answers provided above are opinions only, and may not represent the opinion of the designer of the aircraft.
Prices, availability and equipment are subject to change without notice.


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Zenith Aircraft Company: 2008-10-01