Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
This post is intended for potential new aircraft builders who maybe have yet to purchase a kit or are awaiting delivery. I apologise in advance if what I have to say is old news. It is however a late night reflection on my building experience with a CH750 STOL which I am now in the process of test flying to learn its capabilities. I started the project in January 2012. First flight was on 25 November 2020.
The single most important thing to consider is your time. Not money. Not mission. Not performance. It's your time between deciding to build and getting airborne. I am no longer the man I was when I started my build. You won't be either. None of us know how long we have in this world and age, medical conditions, family circumstances and pandemics can either delay or stop your project permanently in the blink of an eye. I read somewhere that about fifty percent of aircraft projects are not completed by the original builder. I am now not surprised. I am very grateful to g-d that I was allowed to finish and take that scary but wonderful first flight. I hope for many more flights and adventures before age catches up with me but nothing is guaranteed in this life.
The next thing to remember is the educational component of your project. You may think you know it all but boy! Whether you like it or not you are going to get edjumicated in the subtle art of aircraft construction. It's like no other vehicle! As you build, unless you are a wooden head, you are going on a journey that takes you from the Wright Brothers (build it light and straight) all the way to state of the art electronics if you so choose. Enjoy the ride and approach things with an open mind.
If that hasn't scared you off, then I would like to say that although their are other kit aircraft on the market, the Zenith CH750 STOL is a fantastic aircraft. I built mine from a fantastic Zenith kit. The Zenith support and service was and is fantastic. I recommend them without any reservations at all. The quality of every part of the kit was perfect. The instructions are clear. The plans are excellent and I could not find one part where Zenith has taken a low quality shortcut. Remember your time is your most valuable asset. You do not want to spend it sorting out mistakes and omissions made by your supplier.
From that observation comes rule #1. I can now safely say that if something doesn't fit together right when you are building from a Zenith kit, then 99 times out of 100 it's you who have screwed up somewhere. The plans are right, the instructions are right, the parts are right, it's you that are wrong. Go back and reread everything again and again and again. Look in the forums. Chances are if something is a bit confusing someone else has sorted it and documented the solution.
Rule #2 also relates to time. Keep things simple as possible. complexity, modifications and adding gadgets and electronics and "nice to have" stuff wastes a huge amount of time....and you don't know how long you have do you? I could have been flying at least a year earlier if I hadn't lusted after a glass cockpit with all the trimmings, fuel injected engine and autopilot. At my age (70) an extra years flying is beyond price.
Rule #3. Don't over engineer things. In my case I alodined and primed with aircraft primer virtually every bit of airplane inside and out. Apart from adding twenty pounds to empty weight, it probably added another year to the build. Prime the ribs and spars and use a spray can of primer where the skins touch. Nothing more. You are going to corrode faster than the aircraft. Assemble the plane, debur the holes and pop rivet it together. It may not look like an RV10 but you will be flying while they are still pounding solid rivets.
Rule #4, enjoy the ride. Involve friends and family. Get help and advice. Have fun. Do a little bit each day. Pretty soon you will be flying. Once you are flying, all I can say is what a sweet aircraft it is. Part of the learning is discovering the amount of genius, thought and time that has gone into the original design which is just superb. Then there is the thought and time and attention to detail in the kit and plans.
I don't know how long I'll be flying for, but building the CH750 STOL has been worth it.
Well said, Geoff!
Many times when I take people for a flight, they offer to pay for the gas. I routinely refuse the offer and look at them like they're crazy and say, "You don't understand ... I'm always looking for excuses to fly and you've done me a favor!" Flying the 750 is just that rewarding!
Geoff: thanks for posting, that's all "good gouge" as we said in the Navy. I've seen similar posts on other venues, it's a great post for this one. If I were to paraphrase: Select a good manufacturer and model (that satisfies your mission), order your kit and just go for it, doing at least something on project every day, don't overcomplicate things, get in the air, and enjoy it for the rest of your days, you won't regret it.
Sounds like a good plan.
All nicely put Geoff...and IMHO True!
Excellent write up Geoff!
All true! Now get started on that next airplane!
Excellent presentation of what some builders come to recognize. You build to learn how to build. Its an education. If your building to make an aircraft cheaper than market price, there are more aircraft for sale cheaper ready-to-fly.
Geoff, You pretty much told my story as well in your message and share my sentiments. I started my rudder kit in June 2014 and first flew it on 20 Sept. last year. I am very happy to have made it this far as I am now 72 and certainly not the guy I was when I started it. I kept it simple with possibilities for later additions. I tried to keep the project moving forward at all times with the thought that if something doesn't work out to be perfect or pretty to move on as long it's not it's not safety related. And the thing actually flies pretty well as far as this test pilot can tell anyway. Congrats on a job well done. Tom
Hi Geoff -
A truly outstanding post. I am starting year 5 and though I have a ways to go on the fuselage, I ordered my Finishing Kit yesterday to keep the sub-kits coming (delivery expected early October!). I will add that another key success factor is selecting an airplane that you have a passion for. What I struggled with during the selection phase was the fact that I can get on a bicycle and be at Vans Aircraft in about 15 minutes. Took a factory tour (awesome!). Took an RV-12 test flight! Talked to many RV owners about how great their kits are. I simply could not find the passion factor for the RV12. Knew I had no chance completing anything that did not involve pull rivets (bye bye RV-9) I attended a Corvair college in Mexico in Sept 2014 and that's when I first saw the Cruzer. Had a nice talk with Roger and then with Sebastian. Took the test flight. DONE! The Cruzer was "the one" ... It looked and felt right. I have never doubted the decision. Its cute as a bug and easy to get in and out of (I too am not the person I was 5 years ago) Anyway, appreciate your post. Regards, Tim
Same here, when I started off I didn't think I would be able to build a rudder and I really didn't expect to get past the tail but somehow, after 7 years of part-time building I found myself with a plane, that actually worked. She isn't as pretty or complex as the other planes I see here but I built her and I doubt there's anything I've done that matches the feeling of accomplishment.
I had to teach myself so many things: how to read plans, how to follow technical instructions, how to research tools and techniques I'd never heard of, how engines work - heck, I'd never even seen an engine outside of a car before. Not only is the feeling of overcoming these obstacles such a great feeling, but being part of a community that encouraged, taught, advised was an unexpected highlight. And, since I worked on this build with mostly on my own I could not have done it without that community.
Unfortunately, my lack of knowledge and experience has led to me only having flown my bird twice in the 3 years since I got my AW. But I wouldn't swap my time building her for all the tea in China, such a great experience and I'd heartily recommend the process to anyone thinking about it, and with the build knowledge I now have, maybe another will be on the cards some day.
*In case anyone asks, I've had some minor issues with the engine that I am sure someone with experience would fix in a heartbeat, and I think I've gotten to the point where I just don't trust my installation anymore. When the plane flew, though, it flew great. And I haven't given up hope of flying it again.
Great post and a true perspective for many.
Perhaps I could offer another?
I am scratch building the 750 Super Duty with my 11yr old son.
We already built a canoe and a powerboat together.
We have time, he cant legally solo for another 5 years. He has another 60 years till he reaches your stage of life, so good primer could prove practical in his lifetime.
Perhaps he will have this plane his whole life and enjoy a practical tool he built with his father when he was young.
Perhaps he will sell, buy, build many such through his life and carrier and it was just a stepping stone towards a future I can't even dream of for him.
Perhaps he will move out at 18 and never fly again, choosing his own path.
No matter what though, he will know that if he puts his mind to it, he can take a pile of aluminum and cut and form it into a safely flying aircraft. He can take a pile of plywood, fiberglass and epoxy and build a fun safe boat that he can be proud of. There is no limit to what he can do.
He is young, he isn't going to spend hours a day in the shop, but he will do bit here and a bit there mixed with his other studies and play. Hopefully growing up knowing there is no limit to what he can accomplish.
You’re a good father, Narfi.
...And today 12th May 2021, I received the ongoing permit to fly, thus bringing to an end of the building phase of owning a Zenith aircraft.
I checked my build log. I started on the rudder at 12.03pm on April 20th 2012 with the written comment: "May G-d have mercy on me".
My first passenger will be my long suffering wife.