Zenith Aircraft Company  

Builders' Report: Attending the Zenith Factory Workshop

Chad and Kristel recently attended one of Zenith Aircraft's hands-on factory workshops.  The young couple from Colorado agreed to share their workshop experience with the following photos and captions.  

Background: Chad has a degree in geology and works in engineering and science fields in defense and biotech industries, while Kristel is a materials engineer for a medical device company.  Chad claims to perform his own minor car maintenance ("nothing major"), with Kristel occasionally helping.  Neither has yet obtained formal flight training or pilot licenses: "We want to build a STOL CH 701 and we hope to use our completed Zenith airplane for flight training." Chad likes its SUV / bushplane capabilities, aluminum construction, slow flight performance characteristics, and huge control surfaces. Kristel likes the STOL 701's maneuverability and the thought of taking off and landing in their own yard: "We both dream of the long weekends flying around in our airplane."

The Workshop:
"We had been contemplating ordering a component kit or the rudder kit for several months. Fortunately we had a couple spare days that allowed us to drive to Mexico, Missouri, to get a really good take on exactly what building this airplane might entail. "

Day One:

Assembly of the rudder (vertical tail) spar:

Kristel: "I was surprised what little effort a cleco fastener took. Phew - no brawn required!"

Chad: "She seems to be enjoying this as much as I am!"

The rudder "skeleton": The ribs are riveted to the rudder spar:

Kristel: "This air drill is so cute, light, and easy to use. But it's always best to drill on a flat surface. I'm just posing here."

"It was super helpful to observe firsthand building techniques and tools. This provided both some decent experience and a wee dose of confidence. Sort of like getting to watch someone change a flat tire before you have to do it yourself."

The demonstration flight:

Kristel: "I was so surprised and happy to get an airplane ride at our workshop. Roger, from Zenith Aircraft, took me up for a really easy flight."

Chad: "Kristel likes it!!"

Kristel: "Wow, I need one of these planes!"

In the Zenith Aircraft factory

Kristel: " It was awesome to capture Chad under a poster of the Popular Mechanics magazine cover [poster on the wall] where he first learned about Zenith Aircraft."

"Most of the workshop participants joined the Zenith folks at the nearby country club for dinner at the end of the first day of the workshop. Everybody stayed well after the meal was finished, because there was quite a lot of storytelling going on!  It was really neat to meet and interact with fellow builders."

Day Two:

Finishing the rudder: Positioning the rudder nose skin to the assembly

Chad: "Don't underestimate the handy duct tape assembly techniques a Zenith Aircraft factory engineer can provide."

"We had a really great time trading stories and backgrounds with the folks at Zenith and fellow workshop participants. We shared our long work table with a medical doctor who was an experienced pilot and who flew in to attend the workshop."

Riveting the rudder skins (with the pneumatic riveter):

Chad: "I had never used any sort of rivet fastener before. I wasn't even sure which way the rivet should be inserted."

Kristel: " It was fun being Rosie the Riveter for the day."

Chad: "Looking great!!"

"We finished our rudder at our own laid back pace (ok, Kristel did most of the work while I was up flying around with Roger in the factory STOL CH 701!) and were easily finished by noon on the second day of the workshop."

Kristel: "We're proud new parents of a brand new rudder, posing for the picture."

Chad:  "This looks like a rudder all right!" (the dimensions seem correct)

Chad with Zenith's demo pilot, Roger, in the STOL CH 801:

Chad: "Yeah, I think I can handle having one of these in my own barn/garage!:

Kristel: "Thank you Zenith Aircraft Company!"

Status Update:  We took the finished rudder to our local EAA chapter meeting. Since the workshop we've acquired an air compressor, work table, sheet metal tools, air riveter, two matching air drills, and clecos...AND we just ordered our CH 701 tail kit!!


Additional resources:

Hands-on building workshop in Brazil (October 2007).

Note: Many of these images show customer-built aircraft, some of which have been modified without the designer's specific approval. Modifications will affect the specifications and performance of the aircraft.

Zenith Aircraft at Work and Play around the World... Click here for photos and stories

Sport-Pilot Ready Kit Planes from Zenith Aircraft Company

 Zenith Aircraft Company

Zenith Aircraft Company
Mexico Memorial Airport, PO Box 650
Mexico, Missouri, 65265-0650 USA.
Tel: 573-581-9000 (Mon - Fri, 8-5 Central),
Fax: 573-581-0011
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© Zenith Aircraft Company: 2012-04-12