October 2001, Aeroporto di Vigna di Valle, Lago di
The 4th annual Piccola Coppa Schneider race for European microlights
(light aircraft) was held on September 9th at the historic home and museum
of some of the original Schneider Cup aircraft, the Vigna di Valle
seaplane base near Rome, Italy. A new ZODIAC
XL aircraft on 1150 amphibious floats piloted by Chip W. Erwin won
the 2001 race, as well as the trophy for the aircraft with the
ultimate fastest speed in uncompensated time (aircraft race under a
Pazmany handicap formula). The composite Italian Sky Arrow took the
2nd through 7th place.
"We just finished building our first
ZODIAC XL a week before the race and did not even complete the float
installation until a few moments before the flight over the Alps from
the Czech Republic to Italy." Said Erwin. "Some people may
think racing a floatplane at 50 feet altitude, full power and full
speed making 160 degree corners at 70+ degrees bank with 3 aircraft on
the race course might be challenging, but the truth is getting to the
race over the Alps at 9,000+ feet in marginal weather was the
difficult part". The ZODIAC XL proved its versatility on the 600
mile cross country landing on grass, paved surface, and water along
Strong winds and turbulence threatened to
cancel the race but the winds abated by Sunday allowing just enough
time to finish the heats. There was considerable debate whether to
change the starting procedure from water starts to flying starts as
the conditions were still marginal. By the time the debate was over
the winds had abated enough to allow the planned water starts.
The race course was a triangle marked by
catamaran sailboats with flags run up their masts. The course was set
off the shore by about 500 meters and each leg was 500 to 1000 meters.
The race was shortened from 8 to 5 laps to allow time for all aircraft
to compete. The winning time set by Erwin piloting the ZODIAC XL was 9
minutes and 11 seconds. Mr. Filippi was second at 9:25 and Mr. Duranti
third at 9:47, both pilots from Italy and racing in Sky Arrows.
The adventure was not yet over for Erwin as
he returned to Northern Italy flying over the Mediterranean Sea,
sometimes more than 30 miles out to circumnavigate thunderstorms and
fighting 40 mph headwinds, then once again over the Alps returning to
the Czech Republic.
The new ZODIAC XL is designed to be a
"Sportplane" with a cruise speed over 130 mph, stall under
41 mph, and useful load of up to 600 lbs. The amphibious floats make
the aircraft the ultimate Sportplane.
The ZODIAC XL is the newest ZODIAC aircraft model from designer Chris
Heintz, and has been
designed to meet the FAA's proposed Sport Plane category. Amphibious
floats add to the versatility of the aircraft.
For more information about the new ZODIAC XL
design visit Zenith Aircraft Company's website: http://www.zenithair.com
In 1999, Chip Erwin won
the Schneider Cup Seaplane Race flying a slower Zodiac CH 601
model. Click here