Gary Welch's Zenith CH 601 XLB in Sport Aviation magazine (December 2018)

Five years ago, my wife, Linda, and I were happily members of a flying club that had a Cessna Cardinal. Then one day I went to the doctor andwas diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. We sold our share in the Cardinal, and I went down that terrifying path that only cancer patients truly understand. To make a long story short, a year later the lump was gone.
However, I doubted if I would ever feel healthy again.
One day, when I was feeling sorry for myself, I met Doug Dugger, the West Coast rep for Zenith Aircraft. Somehow Doug and my wife convinced me to build an airplane. I was skeptical, especially in my deteriorated condition and with the uncertainty of being able to fly again.
I ended up buying a partially complete Zenith CH 601 XLB kit from a local builder. Unlike others, I didn’t have any “happy hours puttering away in my garage.” The whole experience was physically painful and distressing.
I don’t know how my wife put up with me through this period — I was always tired, sore, and frustrated.
We’re not rich, and I continued to rack up hundreds of dollars in parts every month. Yet, throughout the entire build, my wife, Linda, never complained about the money and just kept saying, “I’ll make it work; you just build the plane.”
And then one day my box of parts was empty. After a mountain of preflight checks, Doug Dugger lifted the airplane off the runway at Cloverdale Airport for its first flight. Linda and I stood on the side of the runway and screamed like idiots.
N972GL is powered by a Lycoming O-235-C1 engine and has a basic VFR panel. The 360-degree view from the wraparound canopy is truly appreciated here in Northern California where there are stunning views in every direction.
I am fortunate in so many ways. I got a second chance at life, I have a wonderful adventure machine, and I have the best wife in the world."
Gary Welch, Cloverdale, California.
Reprinted from EAA Sport Aviation magazine, December 2018

Views: 761


You need to be a member of Zenith Aircraft Builders and Flyers to add comments!

Join Zenith Aircraft Builders and Flyers

Comment by John Edwards on December 5, 2018 at 12:57pm

WOW! Thank You for sharing!!!

Comment by Kristi and Tim McCormick on December 5, 2018 at 11:03am

What a great, inspiring story! So glad you did not give up, and yes, you have an amazing wife! Enjoy! 

Comment by Stephen R. Smith on December 5, 2018 at 10:38am

Hello Gary,

Nice write up. Keep up the fun and enjoyment. Your 601 will take you there!


Comment by christopher fryatt on December 5, 2018 at 10:38am
still have stage 4 grade 1 DXD may 2002 no treatment cept watching lumps grow then shrink

Thank God for sport pilots, Feds don't like watch and wait
Comment by Mike Chekal on December 5, 2018 at 10:30am

Congratulations Gary!

I too had Lymphoma. I was diagnosed with it 3 months after I finished flying the 40 hours off on the 601XLB that I finished in 2015. If you were at the 2016 Oshkosh Zenith banquet, I was the skinny bald guy who had just finished Chemo. I commend you for being able to build while going through treatment! I worked my day job during treatment but came home completely exhausted and unable to do anything else.

I am now back in great health, thoroughly enjoying this fantastic airplane and appreciating life. I'm glad you are as well!


Comment by Timothy D. McCall on December 5, 2018 at 10:29am
Congratulations Gary. cavu

New from Zenith:

Zenith Planes For Sale 

Classified listing for buying or selling your Zenith building or flying related stuff...


Weather Maps

Custom Instrument Panels
for your Zenith

Custom instrument panels are now available directly from Zenith Aircraft Company exclusively for Zenith builders and owners. Pre-cut panel, power distribution panel, Approach Fast Stack harnesses, Dynon and Garmin avionics, and more.

Custom Upholstery Kits for your Zenith Aircraft:

Zenith Vinyl Upholstery Kits

Zenith Apparel from EAA:

Zenair Floats

Flying On Your Own Wings:
A Complete Guide to Understanding Light Airplane Design, by Chris Heintz

Builder & Pilot Supplies:

How to videos from

Developed specifically for Zenith builders (by a builder) these videos on DVD are a great help in building your own kit plane by providing practical hands-on construction information. Visit for the latest DVD titles.

Aircraft Insurance:


West Coast USA:

Pro Builder Assistance:


Transition training:

Golden Eagle Aviation

Pianosa Flying Farm

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty for all your building and pilot supplies!

© 2020   Created by Zenith.Aero.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service