Cash for Clunkers: What is my Zodiac Worth?

Unlike many of you, I didn't build my Zodiac. It was built in a factory in the Czech Republic and I wouldn't have it any other way. I have the bent bicycle wheel that I attempted to straighten and the cable tv box I blew up with a little handy homeowner outlet I installed. No one wants me building or fixing an airplane. So I read the letter and learn there is going to be a tidy little "kit" to install and exorcise the demon in the machine. A kit sure sounds pretty easy. I then turn to the Zenith page and see three pages of the "kit." It looked like the backyard barbecue from hell-that flies kit. It took me less than a second to realize that there was no way I was going to be installing the kit.

The panic filled my head, who is going to install this kit and how much will the kit cost? I have no idea how many hours of work are involved with this fix but I am guessing 40 hours at $120/hr; if you can find a shop that can and will do it. In this cover-your-butt world, I would think long and hard about doing this work if I were a mechanic: big potential downside. My guess is there will be a handful of specialty shops that you will have to beg to take your business at around $10,000. The exciting part of this for Zenith is they get to sell the kits. Again, because of the liability and limited application, Zenith will be the only one's selling the kit and they will want to make enough to cover their profits and their butts so I am guessing $5,000 minimum. There is also the matter of loss-of-use of the plane, higher insurance, logistics for the repair, which will probably add another five grand.

This leaves me looking at $20,000 for an airplane that I paid $35,000 for and is probablly worth about $15,000 now - if I sell the Rotax engine and instruments. Clearly, I need a bail-out, I think I will write my congressman.

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Comment by Carl Kesselring on November 9, 2009 at 10:41pm
I called Zenith today and was told they have no control of how the plane is assembled after it leaves their factory which indicates the problems are caused by builders but I would suspect all kit suppliers have that problem and as far as I know no other kits are loosing their wings.
Comment by JG Ginther on November 9, 2009 at 7:36pm
Steve, the plane is experimental but I didn't build it so I think I would need a mechanic. I am located in Northern VA. I still get back to this:

After the review we made a determination that these accidents did not clearly indicate a single root cause. Instead, it implicated the potential coupling of design and operational aspects of the aircraft.

Is there really anything that needs fixing?
Comment by JG Ginther on November 9, 2009 at 4:51pm
After the review we made a determination that these accidents did not clearly indicate a single root cause. Instead, it implicated the potential coupling of design and operational aspects of the aircraft.

This line from the FAA letter just kills me. For this amount of certainty, we are to give up or shell out big bucks? And where are our friends at EAA and AOPA? They are telling us to bend over and grab our ankles. If this would have been done to a Cessna or Piper with this little proof, they would be putting up would minimal resistance they do.
Comment by John Cange on November 9, 2009 at 4:40pm
Ed, everybody, good to see there's some people still have a sense of humor. We may not be grounded, but you can bet your rears that the insurance companies will not be very likely to agree with that. 80 hrs.. holy crap. Nothing like a quick an easy fix. What's the going rate for recylcled aluminum? JG, I'm in the same predicament as you. Actually my airplane is currently getting it's condition inspection. Maybe I should just tell them to hack off the wings while they have it? We're pretty well hosed either way. We'll probably never be able to sell it unless the "mod" is done, and if the mod isn't done, we won't be able to get insurance. Yeah, we do need a bailout. Doug, good to see you're still around. I like the idea of the builders assist. But, how many people can afford to miss 80 hrs of work? I live close to Mexico, Mo. I'm sure if I fly, or drive it over, Zenith would be more than happy to do this mod just to improve their customer relations. I think we all need to let the dust settle a bit. I have to admit that I'm disappointed that there isn't more detail on the Zenith website with estimated man hours, cost, etc. 80 hrs? How much would a new set of wings cost? Just snap em on!
Comment by JG Ginther on November 9, 2009 at 3:28pm
80 hours!? My foolish hope is that one of the builder assistance centers will offer a reasonable package. I am also pretty sure my plane is light enough with the Rotax (715 lbs) to meet UL category that THE DESIGNER said wouldn't need modification. I just wonder what the insurance issues will be.
Comment by Stephen R. Smith on November 9, 2009 at 2:49pm
Hello JG,

Your plane may be near worthless but your sense of humor is working just fine. I don't know what to tell you. With a Rotax your plane should be on the light side. Do you mostly fly solo? Fly within the reduced envelope and just keep on having fun. That is what I would do if that was my best option. Of course fixing is the best thing but its not the only thing.

Steve
Comment by Dr. Edward M. Moody II on November 9, 2009 at 1:47pm
Sounds right. On the other hand the mods are recommended... nobody's grounded...

Ed

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