Chapter 1410 Zenith 601 XL Learn/Build — Update

By Jack Dueck, EAA Lifetime 337912

Since our last report, our group has been busy working on our amateur-built aircraft project. Just to recall, our EAA chapter initiated a project for new members together with a couple of previous builders to build a Zenith 601 XL-B as a pilot project with the intent to form a flying club using this completed aircraft to learn, build, learn to fly, and enjoy recreational flight for those of us who already have our pilot’s license.

The Zenith 601 XL has been issued a mandatory upgrade to strengthen the structure. This upgrade includes modifications to the fuselage carry-through spar, both wings, and both ailerons. You can read about it under FAA Zodiac CH 601 Airplane Special Review Team Report, January 2010.

We purchased this project kit from a builder who had started the construction (together with the upgrade) but then abandoned it due to a successful increase in his FBO business.

At this stage we have completed the flight control surfaces and the first wing. We have started work on our second wing as well as on the fuselage.

Progress has been steady. We meet every Saturday with a review of the day’s work schedule and then separate into two groups of three or four members. Each group consists of a group leader and several newbies. Each group works independently on separate jobs, one currently working on the second wing and one beginning the fuselage.

Starting work on the fuselage.

We have arranged for our pre-cover inspection with the MD-RA on July 3. Our second wing will be completed so that the inspector can check out our workmanship on both wings and all of the flight control surfaces. With this inspection completed, we can request our Certificate of Registration and our call letters from Transport Canada.

To date we are on schedule and on budget. Our project purchase included a Lycoming O-235, which our group elected to replace with a Rotax 912 ULS, giving us the same horsepower with a reduction of about 100 pounds of weight. We have sold the Lycoming and recouped a good portion of the cost of our kit. We also obtained a Rotax with 1,500 hours’ total time. This allowed us to order a firewall-forward kit supporting this engine choice from Zenith in Midland, Ontario. My wife, Debra, and I will travel to Midland with our motor home after leaving EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, to pick up these items and save crating and shipping costs.

One of the decisions made by our group was to change the aircraft from a tailwheel to a tricycle configuration. This necessitated the purchase of several components including the main gear spring, uprights, etc. It also made several components obsolete. Kudos to Zenith for giving us a credit of these parts. All in all, Zenith, the kit supplier, has been terrific to work with. We could not be more pleased.

Kelvin cuts a hole for the baggage locker in the second wing.

One of the very neat things in such a project is discovering new ways to achieve the desired outcome. In the photo, Kelvin is using a laminate cutter to cut the hole in the wing for the baggage locker. Using this cutter against a straight edge, with several cutting moves, cleanly cuts through the skin. First the corners are drilled for the appropriate radius, and then the cuts are made between the holes on all four sides. It’s really slick!

So where are we? At this point we have invested about $15,000 and amassed 760 hours of labour. We would like to think we can complete the construction by sometime in December of this year. That would allow us to plan for our first flight sometime in January and to fly off the requisite 25 hours of test hours in the spring, all in time to allow one of our group currently holding a license, together with a newbie, to fly to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2020.

This has been, and still is, such great fun! We have lost one of our build members but have gained another. In addition, two fellows regularly come out to help, even though they are not investors in the project, because they enjoy the work and the camaraderie. We have established milestones in our production where we get together to celebrate our progress, but more importantly, to celebrate the formation of great friendships. As Paul Poberezny said, “Airplanes bring us together, but friendship keeps us together!”

How many engineers does it take to polish one skin?

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