Installing the "Upgrade Package" to our Zodiac CH 601 XL

Since the FAA's Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) and AMD's Safety Alert / Directive were issued on Saturday, November 7, 2009, we've begun the job of updating our Zodiac XL demonstrator per Zenair Upgrade drawings. As the kit factory, we want to have this done as soon as possible while also documenting and verifying the drawings and developing detailed step-by-step assembly instructions for builders and owners.

We've spoken with many builders over the last couple of days, and we want to thank you for your overwhelming support! We are working very hard to complete the Upgrade Package kit and to make it available to all so that it can be installed as soon as possible and at minimum inconvenience and cost. We'll be providing details on availability (how to order, etc.) later this week.

I plan to post updates here of our progress as we install this Upgrade Package to our demonstrator Zodiac XL to give builders and owners a good idea of the job ahead:

First thing first: Removal of the wings.
As Zodiac builders know, this is a straightforward process: Empty the fuel tanks, disconnect the controls, wires and lines, and remove the spar bolts:

Despite its age, our demonstrator Zodiac XL appears to be in great condition, with expected normal "wear and tear" to the cabin interior and exterior paint. We've taken hundreds of folks flying in this aircraft, and it's been around the country (several times!), and hundreds (if not thousands) have sat in it trying it on for size at shows around the country and at the factory.

Here's a brief video clip of the wing removal:

Our next step will be to drill out the rivets for the nose skin and top rear skin...
I'll be documenting the process here as we complete the Upgrade Package installation. Click here to view Part 2.

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Comment by Stephen R. Smith on November 11, 2009 at 10:23am

Thanks very much for starting this post. I for one would love to see daily updates on the progress you are making. It removes some anxiety and gives us a sense of progress while providing an opportunity to learn what needs to be done. I think it is very constructive. Please continue.

I too will be glad to pay a reasonable fee for the upgrade kit. I will be a happy camper when my wings are back on with the modifications safely done, the sooner, the better. Until then, I will keep on flying conservatively and enjoying my airplane

Comment by Dr. Edward M. Moody II on November 11, 2009 at 7:33am
Thanks for the update and the effort to document and instruct on the retrofit process. Still, I wish that the FAA and NTSB had been required to demonstrate where and how the design was flawed. Overbuilding is a legitimate desire and goal for some, possibly many XL owners/builders; sort of like more avionics or better harnesses. Others of us are satisfied with the design as we bought and built it.

By presenting this as anything more than an optional upgrade, we have been relegated to stepchild status, wondering when the other shoe will drop and we too will be forced to rebuild planes that we have no desire to rebuild.

No offense to anyone who wants to do the mods, that's his or her individual call, but those of us who were the most supportive of the company and the XL's original design and performance have sort of gotten the short end of the stick in this case.

Comment by Jake Reyna on November 11, 2009 at 7:06am
Sebastian, I find it odd that you would disassemble a perfectly good airplane that by some accounts should have fallen out of the sky years ago, hmm ... goes against the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

I will gladly pay for the upgrade kit.
Comment by Martin Pohl on November 11, 2009 at 2:28am
Hi Sebastien

Great and straightforward idea to put desciption and pictures of the modification process of your demonstrator plane right here on the page!!! Thanks.

Regards Martin
Comment by Phill Barnes on November 11, 2009 at 12:49am
Hi Sebastien
Thankyou for giving us progress reports.
I know a lot of us would like nothing better than to recieve the upgrade kit at no charge but as pointed out by other builders, any contribution to any financial destruction of Zenith is not in our best interest at all. That being said, in return we would like the opportunity to be as safe as possible with our massive financial investments.
Just a quick question on the drawings, BONDING is called for on the drawings between the spar and doubler 6-ZU-2-1 & 6-ZU-2-2. What glue is used for this application and does it really provide any structural benefit?

Comment by Chris Sinfield on November 11, 2009 at 12:36am
great stuff and thanks for putting this on the net for all of us to watch
this will give us a better understanding of the job at hand as well.

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