Short Version: Recently sold a PA-22-150. Thinking of building a Zenith and here on the forum mainly for preliminary learning at this point. Before I go any farther, I'll express my sincere appreciation to the moderator who allowed me to join for research purposes without a plans S/N. Thanks so much! The full version of my background is in my profile, with a brief idea of my experience, both pilot and mechanic.  I'm specifically interested in information that would assist me with making the decision on whether to build the CH750 or the CH650.  I'd also be open to information from CH601XLB owners, as good deals on flying airplanes materialize with some regularity, and I'd consider the right previously flying 601.  I'm extremely interested in the practical, real world differences between the low wing vs cruzer.  I'd be all ears if someone with sound experience in both would be willing to provide insight here.  I've already called the factory, and Roger was great about answering my basic questions.  To those of you who have experience with both, what questions should I be asking when considering the differences here? What things haven't I thought of that you wish you'd known prior to making the choice?

I'm in the North Texas area, and would be interested in looking at a nearby example of both if possible. On my 2022 goals list is a trip to Mexico, Mo to fly each prior to a 2023 planned project start. Any experienced input prior to that trip would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

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I'm not the best person to answer but I do have a Kitfox and I'm building a CH601XLB.  The Kitfox will be sold in the spring.  I personally prefer the view of a low wing aircraft.  When I bank into a turn, I like to see where I'm going.  The big thing, though, is that I prefer cross country over low and slow.  I have no interest in landing off-airport.  It all gets down to your mission.

Hello there, we have many customers flying in Texas, in fact we will be in Boerne with a lot of them at a Rudder shop this weekend. Most of them fly daily, and would be more than happy to show you around a Cruzer. 

I'm not sure your exact area, but you are more than welcome to email me at alissa@vikingaircraftengines.com

I'd say depending on your size, a 750 could be more comfortable and is also easier to get in and our of if you have mobility issues. I know with the 650 and 750 (at least those I know with our engine) cruise speed is about 15 mph difference. To me I find the Cruzer to be the most versatile of their aircraft. 

I am a real world data point for Jan's statement of "a 750 could be more comfortable and is also easier to get in and out of if you have mobility issues".  I have never been in/out of a 650, but I have an RV-12.  For me, an aging pilot with a few aches and pains, exit of the  RV-12 was problematic and would only get worse with time.   The Cruzer was thus the hands down winner for me.  No comparison in this regard.    Tim

To me, the decision points are obvious. One is a decent Stohl aircraft and one is not. 

There seems to be a huge interest in stohl aircraft these days. Especially if you live in certain areas where off-field landing is either common or available. And stohl competitions seems to be springing up everywhere. Clearly a stohl aircraft is the only option if your mission is to get into the backcountry out west.

I have tried every technique to get my 601 landing distances lower, but I can never get it less than about 800 feet in zero wind. This was on hard pavement and I'm not locking up the brakes. Also, the prop clearance on a 601/650 is not great for off-field operations. My o-235 powered plane with a 3 blade, 68" Warp drive prop is only about 7". A lighter engine might get you up to 9". If you're going to land on a non-airport/grass/dirt runway in a 601/650 you need to have a very good idea of runway conditions beforehand. This is not the plane to go exploring in. 

Zenith published performance numbers are wishful thinking (as are many aircraft mfgrs). For instance, my 601 published number with my O-235 is 138 mph. There is no way my plane will ever get close to that number. I flight plan for 105 mph at about 2450 rpm (+/- 75%). With WOT I may get 110-115. No where near 138 mph. Now if you put a Viking 130 in it, or some of the other engines you may get close to 130 or so. 

The published number for the Cruzer at 75% power at sea level with an O-200 is 118mph. I don't have any reference for this, but I suspect it, too, is inflated. You may consider researching actual performance numbers with engine/prop combinations to really understand what your aircraft performance is likely to be.

I got a long ride in a Cruzer once. It had this "solid" feel to it that surprised me. I really liked the way it flew. I think they are great planes and a decent compromise of off-field performance and cruise capability.

However, my mission was to go places. I just don't have the desire to take on the risks of off-field landings or back country camping. I just wanted to go places. Also, the spectacular visibility of the 360 degree view of the bubble canopy creates a flying experience like no other. For me, there is no way I'm ever going back to the enclosed feeling, limited visibility of a high wing.

As with all aircraft, it comes down to your mission. Also, I think you need to be realistic about your expectations. My personal feelings (and clearly not shared by some) is that landing the aircraft that I spent 4 years and $50,000 building is not something I would want to risk by regular off-field landings. My reasons are partly financial and partly because I have zero desire to ever do any significant repairs on my plane. I got burnt out on building it.   

   

As much as I like my 601, the Cruzer is an equally great aircraft that gives you more versatility, for a reasonably small cruise performance difference (depending on your engine). 

Besides your mission, you should really fly them both before you make you final decision. As much as it appears the Cruzer might be the best of both worlds, on paper, the flying experience of the low wing, bubble canopy, is a huge deal.

Hi Gary,

Enjoyed reading your post. 

Perry

i have been flying a 601xl since 2014 and to me the only thing id like about the cruiser is downward vis. I like looking at stuff! The view i guess would be like a cesnna 150 or 172. The 601xl with O-200 cruises 120mph at 75% with a catto prop, the roll is dampened and makes headings easy to hold as for the bubble effect, well its mostly sky!

Hi Jonathan,

The following are the numbers our chief pilot flying RAA Chapter 85 Cruzer - O-200 w/o Wheel Pants gets. 

“At altitude, 65% power cruise gives a true airspeed of about 84 knots. ZXC overreads by about 1% so call it 83 knots.

I would use 80 kts at 6 gph for flight planning but I think it's more like 83 kts at 5.8 gph”
Perry

It really depends on what you want to do with the aircraft. The 650 is great for cruising and the Cruzer is great for enjoying the scenery. The comments about off airport landings and limited visibility in turns don't really apply to the Cruzer. Although you can take nearly any aircraft off airport, the Cruzer isn't really designed for that. It's based on a STOL airframe, true, but it's optimized for cruising, not short/rough field landings. You might damage it if you try. Every aircraft has limited visibility past the wings, whether in a turn or not. High wing aircraft have a bad reputation for limited visibility in a turn because you can't see in the direction you're turning. But that doesn't really apply to the Cruzer either. Because of the wing taper at the root and the skylight, you have great visibility in a turn. The only limitation is the thickness of the wing, but you can see where you're turning just fine. I agree that there's much more room in a 750 than a 650. That's the primary reason I didn't go with a 650. That and the greenhouse effect in the summer. The visibility in the 750 is also in an entirely different universe than the 650. It's fantastic, though not quite as good as the STOL.

Gary has it right.. You choose an aircraft based on the intended mission. What others think, in many ways, isn't really relevant. It isn't what works for them that matters. It's what will work best for the type of flying you want to do.

There's one thing you should do that I cannot recommend highly enough. Attend a builder workshop at Zenith. It gives you a great idea of what you're up against in the build process, and, weather and aircraft status permitting, you'll get the opportunity to fly in both the aircraft you're considering. It's an incredible eye opener, and well worth the minimal cost.

My data point, from the perspective of someone who built a 601 XL with all of the 650 upgrades and who plans on building a 750 Cruzer as a next project.

Originally I wanted to build a 701. However, at 6'3" that wasn't an option once I sat in one (and the 750 did not yet exist). I ended up building the 601 and have been flying it ever since.

Strong points for the 601/650 are visibility when you're sitting at the hold short line (you can see the entire pattern). Visibility on base to final is great. Visibility while taxiing is great. Visibility to the sides is great when you're turning. And the seating position is very comfortable.

Weak points for the 601/650 are essentially no real-world useful load (for me at 240 lbs, but different for a standard FAA sized human), "neutral stability" (which in practice means you can't take your hand off the stick, which makes it tiresome to fly for any length of time), and no downward visibility (there have been times I've been looking for an airstrip and not seen it because it was right below me). If you live in a warmer climate you'll cook under that magnifying glass canopy (I moved to Texas from Minnesota and really notice this now). Getting in and out of the 601/650 could be problematic in the future as people age. 601/650's are quite pitch sensitive at speed (but that's also an advantage when you're landing).  Also, my 601 was a slow airplane with just 100HP (I've flown my airplane behind 100 and 130 HP engines, and there's a big performance gulf there). 

The 750 Cruzer (not the STOL) appears to be just as fast as the 601/650 in real-world operations - IF you have enough engine. Yes, a similarly powered 601/650 can go faster - maybe even a LOT faster for short sprints - but how often do you really fly that way, and how fast are you willing to fly in rougher air...?  VA on both airframes is close (101 vs 103mph). 

From a real-world perspective (and from watching a couple of 750 Cruzers with 130HP engines on Flight Aware) there is little if any substantive difference in the actual cross-country speed that you are likely to actually fly. 

Take a look at Barnstormers and see what the resale values are for the respective airframes. Resale value may or may not be important to you (it is NOT to me), but it will give you an indication of the relative value placed on a particular airframes within the current market.

You're in North Texas?  I'm hosting a Zenith fly-in in a few weeks (see the "Events" section).  Come take a look at some airplanes...

- Pat

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