Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
I think the fast-build kit definitely saves a lot of time. I finished my 601XL/TD from a fast build kit in less than 2 years while maintaining a full-time job. However, the delta-$$ for the fast build is pretty high. You could probably buy the slow build kit, and hire an experienced builder to get you to the fast-build stage for no more money, and with a lot more control over desired modifications and build quality.
I'm at 1600 hours on my CH 750 so above figures don't apply to everyone.
I am working on a 601 XL standard kit.
I have been working on it on and off for almost 6 years.
I also had the right wing done except to rivet the top rear skin when the SAIB came out.
I have about 800 hours into the build time.
Tail section is done, wings are done and fuselage is getting close to done.
Here's a couple pics.
My 60XL took 22 months and just a shade under 800 labor hours from first rivet hole to first flight of my standard build kit. That was while holding a full-time job, a wife (still married!) and 2 kids. I recorded every hour I worked on the project and had particular tasks in mind when I started each days work to keep me focused. I was not in a hurry to complete the airplane, but I did not waste time either since being able to carve out a block of my time and still keep the homefront happy was no easy task.
Good luck on your project, no matter how long it takes,
I'm still building an XLB after four years. If all goes well, I'll be ready for licensing by year's end. In fairness, I'm an A&P/IA, so I'm fairly picky on my own airplane. If something didn't suit me, I built it again (and in a few cases, again after that).
I was also delayed by the modification kit to change the aircraft to the "B" configuration. The wings and fuselage were pretty far along; wings had to be opened, and the spar carry-through removed from the fuselage and reworked.
I'm also disabled, which means I wasn't always able to work on it each day, or even to typically put in more than 3 or 4 hours of work per day. All of these things account for some of the delay. But I don't personally believe the aggressive building times sometimes cited in literature are realistic for many builders, particularly novices.
There's no question, though, that the quick build kit will save a lot of time. Most of us out here in the great unwashed throng don't have jigs to build things on, and we must familiarize ourselves with the drawings, all of which takes time. The people creating the quick build kits probably do have jigs, and they are certainly familiar with the drawings. They can work a lot faster than can we, and save us a lot of time.
Although I think the Zenith drawings are fairly complete, I found them very unconventional when compared with drawings from some certificated aircraft.The fabrication and assembly drawings are not separated, and it is sometimes difficult to find a specific piece of information, even if you know you've seen it before.
For example, today I wanted to confirm the size of the rear wing spar attach bolt. I finally found it, not on the wing drawing or fuselage drawing, but on the wing rigging drawing. When I did find it, the AN5-5A bolt they sent was too short. The AN5-7A's I had in stock were too long, and I'm stopped on that effort, waiting on delivery of AN5-6As.
Too often, the bolts really should have washers under them which are not called out in the drawings. But if added, the bolts wind up being too short. What I'm trying to say here is that you may encounter parts delays, simply because you may find the hardware shown on the drawing (and included with the kit) isn't really of optimal size. But I admit, that's the A&P side of me talking.
Do I think the Zenith kits are a good value? Definitely! Would I point someone who needed this general type of aircraft in their direction? Certainly. But I would caution them not to expect things to go together as quickly as they might hope.
That's my two bits worth, with the reminder, as always, that two bits won't buy what it once would.
Jim - I am building a "standard" CH650 kit.
I have never built anything of this magnitude before (except a guitar, a harpsichord, and a house or three.) My experience so far (rudder done, stab done, elevator+trim done, wings+fuel kits arriving this week) is that it is pretty foolproof. Almost every hole of any significance is pre-drilled by the factory. I use the HomeBuiltHelp dvd's and while not perfect (and sometimes frustrating, Jon talks real s_l_o_w_l_y and seeing big dents in a skin is depressing) they are really great for general sequence of assembly and telling you what NOT to rivet yet because you need to fit something else there later. The deeper I get into this, the more obvious it's becoming that the real work is going to be fitting the wings, the FWF stuff, the instrument panel, and some kind of painting. I don't believe any of that would go away with the quick-build. I try to spend at least 2 hours every single day doing SOMETHING, whether it's just re-reading plans, re-watching dvd's, or drilling & deburring holes. I am amazed at how fast it can go as long as I try to do something every single day. I have about 45 hours total in so far for the actual drilling, deburring, and riveting. I don't count study time, but you I think you would have that with the QB anyway.
My 2 c.
I am 4 years this month in building a 650 slow build kit. I have approximately 1500 hours recorded in the project so far.
I have the airframe pretty much completed. I am ready to order the UL 350i and have the FWF kit from Zenith on order.
This is the first aero project for me and I have learned as I went. I also had to dismantle my completed wings to upgrade, so some of the hours in my total account for that.
I personally think the first time ( perfectionist) builder would have a very difficult time completing a 650 in the suggested time.
It has not been a concern for me as I was more about the proverbial " journey" and not focused too strongly on the final goal. This allowed me to celebrate many small achievments over the years and not become discouraged as the years have slid by. As the 650 begins to come together, I am becoming more excited about the prospects of it flying some day and am now allowing myself to have the completion of the plane becoming my focus.
Good luck to you and remember an airplane is an accumulation of many parts. Enjoy every part and eventually you will have an airplane. Jerry
I also enjoy the journey. Building is about as much fun as flying, in my book.
I have 1.5 years and about 350 hours in on the standard kit version of the 650B. That is building time, not staring at the plans drinking coffee time. I'm using the Homebuilt Help videos and they are quite helpful. I have done the rudder, tail, both wings, and about 1/2 the fuselage (rear section riveted, cabin floor drilled and clecoed, ready to position the firewall). What I don't know is how much time the firewall forward, instruments, wiring, and rigging will take. Optimistically, I'm hoping to be ready in mid-spring. Depends on how cold the winter is out in the hangar.
The quick build kit looks like it has much of the fuselage done for you. For me that was relatively easy to do, (so far), but I'll let you know when I finish the fuselage how much time it took.
I spend about 5 hours per week out there on weekday evenings, and average 8 hours per weekend during the summer. The winter is a lot more sporadic. I also didn't stage my wing kit purchase right, and ended up with two months last summer of no building.
I'm building a 601XL B taildragger QBK. This is my first homebuilt airplane although I have re-built/restored several GA certified aircraft both fabric covered and all metal so I had some similar experience. I have a fairly well equipped shop with MIG and TIG welders, lathe, milling machine, sheet metal brake, shear, and other hand tools. I have been at the build for 2 years, 8 months. I'm retired and devote most of my spare time to working on the airplane, thinking about solving build problems, or researching for parts, materials, or other related information. I have recorded about 2200 hours of actual hands on building time. Currently, I'm finishing up the engine cowling installation, install the prop and spinner, small amount of interior work, and that should complete it. Probably 50 - 100 hrs.
Shortly after I bought the kit, the upgrade mod was announced. It took 400+ hours to take apart the wings and center spar and re-build them to the upgrade specs. I attended the upgrade training offered by QSP in Cloverdale, CA and that helped me get a better grasp of what was required to do that part of the job.
Along the way, I saw things with the original that I either didn't like, or simply wanted to change (improve) to my own satisfaction. All the pivot points were changed to either ball or bronze bearings. I made fairings for the wing to fuselage joint, gear leg fairings, raised the fuselage behind the canopy to incorporate a roll bar and give a better seal for the rear of the canopy. All these things takes time. I used a Corvair motor, but only bought the motor mount and cowling. All the rest of the FWF things I made myself including the "header" style stainless steel exhaust. I built a dual electronic ignition system (still retained the single spark plug per cyl) rather than use the distributor and dual coils. I used a Rotec carb, but mounted it differently than most. There is more, but the point is that all these changes takes a lot of extra time. You'll spent a huge amount of time doing the interior upholstery work, instrument panel layout, radio/antenna installation, general wiring design and installation as well as the actual engine installation, cooling baffle fabrication, and cowling fabrication and fitting.
I'd estimate that starting with a QBK, building it exactly per plans with no "improvements" and buying a proven engine and FWF package should take somewhere between 1000 to 1200 hrs. A lot depends on how steadily you can work at it, always think ahead so parts are ordered and on hand for the next step so no waiting for FedEx delivery. The QBK saves time, but not as much as you might think because so much time is used to finish from where you start with the QBK.
My build log is at www.mykitlog.com/louie928
Many thanks to all the great responses ! I must say it is quite encouraging to have so many active and passionate participants on this site.... Definitely will not feel alone if I embark on the build journey....Im self employed, so I go from having lots of time on my hands to none, depending on my client workload. Would like to think I can complete in less than 2 years....Im not getting any younger, but a factory built anything I would want is way out of my financial reach. So again, thanks for all the input !! Perhaps I will order the rudder kit and see what happens ! Jim