One sure way to know if a show works is to observe vendor participation over a number of years. As this is my 14th year attending the Midwest LSA Expo, I can tell you 2023 represents a strong turnout. Companies come back year after year because it works to connect them with interested customers. Both sides end up with smiles. In this article, I will give you a glimpse of what you can see if you can attend on Friday and Saturday. For those that cannot come, this will provide some taste of what happens in Mount Vernon, Illinois in early September. Hopefully, you can come in 2024. Every image you see below shows that vendors did not just bring one airplane to test the market. In every case, these companies brought two, three, or even four aircraft to show. That’s very rare even at AirVenture or Sun ‘n Fun. What this illustrates is that the Midwest LSA Expo (about an hour’s drive east of St.
Zenith Aircraft Co.
Phone: (573) 581-9000Mexico, MO 65265 - USA
- 15th annual Midwest LSA Expo,
- Zenith's 32nd Annual Homecoming event follows the Expo, with even larger crowds,
- Aero Showcase's second event is scheduled and being promoted, and
- down under — where Australis is exiting winter (yeah, weird, huh?) — big changes for Jabiru
Midwest 2023I've taken to shortening the event name to "Midwest (Year)" because I say or write it so often. This show — as you might expect, in the Midwest USA — has become a foundation of my aviation calendar. I only missed one year due to a hurricane in Florida where I live. In Mount Vernon, Illinois, 2023 will be the 15th running of the Expo, and I have zero doubt it will happen again in 2024. At that time the Midwest LSA Expo in Mount Vernon (KMVN) will become the longest-running of all sector-specific shows. The previous granddaddy of such events, also the first, was Sebring, but that production shut down after it had accomplished its goals (article & follow-up). A lot of credit for Midwest's leadership goes to airport manager, Chris Collins, but he would be quick to state that there is a team behind him that supports the effort. He adopted the color orange and today when you attend the event, you can easily tell a volunteer because they are brightly garbed. After several years, Midwest has found all the right buttons to push to put on an intimate event that draws well year after year. Pilots love it because they can talk to aircraft representatives without a long wait and for as long as they want plus they can go for demo flights as easily as any place I've ever seen. Vendors love it because they can get those pilots up in their aircraft, which can often lead to a sale. Smiles on both ends. I will be giving not one but two talks on the new Mosaic regulation. I'm deep in work studying this large document and putting slides together. For those that cannot attend. I plan a video to follow. However, if you can attend, I urge you to join me in these discussions because I want to hear from you more than you want to hear from me.
Zenith's 32nd Homecoming
DeLand Showcase 2023 Announced
New Boss at Jabiru AustraliaU.S. Jabiru representative Scott Severen advised of news from down under in Australia where that country and New Zealand are now exiting their winter months. Founded in 1988 by Rod Stiff and Phil Ainsworth, the company is extremely rare in producing both airframes and engines under its brand. "Rod bought Phil out in 2005 and continued the adventure at Jabiru," wrote Mick Halloran, now Executive Director of Jabiru. "After thirty-five years of inspiration and perspiration, Jabiru stands as Australia’s premier aircraft manufacturer, with one of the world’s best affordable touring aircraft and even more remarkably, one of the few light aero engines in continuous production. Rod built a team that has delivered (at the time of writing) 2,124 aircraft and 7,223 engines, has a customer list that spans the world and a complex international supply chain." Mick summarized, "It’s a global enterprise run from a couple of sheds in Bundaberg (Queensland, Australia, on the country's east coast)." "Rod is responsible for the design of an original aircraft, an original engine, and has run an aircraft manufacturing company for 30+ years," Mick continued. "Any one of those, would in itself, be an incredible achievement. All three is quite extraordinary." "Two months ago, I took over the business," he wrote. He reported previous roles in the "big corporate world," at companies such as British Aerospace and Lockheed Martin. He worked in the USA and Europe as well as Australia, "on everything from the original design of the Joint Strike Fighter." "The last few years have left [Jabiru] with a mature design in the Gen4 engines and a timeless aircraft design with the J430/230/170 series." Scott Severen is working with Jabiru to prepare for Mosaic aircraft as the J430 has long been a four seat design in Australia. "Jabiru is one of the great Australian success stories. My job is to eventually leave it better than I found it, which is no small challenge given what Rod and the team have achieved," concluded Mick. "I am looking forward to the challenge, but most of all I look forward to meeting all of the good people who are the buyers, flyers, and fixers of Jabiru."
When AirVenture Oshkosh ends, you can almost hear a national sigh as if to denote the flying season is over. EAA’s magnificent summer celebration of flight leads to Labor Day and into fall. Fun flying in northern climates might begin to slow but in the southern half of the U.S., flying for fun is entering its best season. As if to prove the point, coming up soon: 15th annual Midwest LSA Expo, Zenith’s 32nd Annual Homecoming event follows the Expo, with even larger crowds, Aero Showcase’s second event is scheduled and being promoted, and down under — where Australis is exiting winter (yeah, weird, huh?) — big changes for Jabiru Midwest 2023 I’ve taken to shortening the event name to “Midwest (Year)” because I say or write it so often. This show — as you might expect, in the Midwest USA — has become a foundation of my aviation calendar. I only missed one year due to a hurricane in Florida where I live.
STOL Down UnderEven as American pilots in northern states prepare for an ongoing winter storm, it's summertime "down under." In Australia and New Zealand, this is their warm season. So, naturally, they had a STOL competition. Before Sun 'n Fun starts on March 28 through April 2, 2023, fellow flying fans halfway around the planet were already engaged in the sport of using almost no runway. As nearby images show, Zenith Aircraft's tricycle-gear STOL design does admirably well, coming away the winner… again. In the USA, American STOL enthusiasts have taken this to the max (no surprise, huh?). Using his powerful Viking engines but also adding adding a super-special humongous landing gear arrangment to maximize rotation-for-takeoff performance Jan Eggenfellner created his Monster STOL. As regular enthusiasts know, most of the top performers use taildraggers. Yet Zenith clearly does well with tricycle gear, even the regular version; the video below illustrates this. Congratulations to Hamish Crowe for his first place finish at the 2023 New Zealand Bush Pilot Championships in Omaka, New Zealand, on Saturday, February 4, 2023. Hamish won the national event with both the shortest take-off and shortest landing in his orange and white Zenith STOL CH 701, registration SLO. He achieved a winning short takeoff roll of 15.4 meters (50.5 feet) and landing roll of 25.2 meters (82.7 feet), for a combined winning distance of 40.5 meters (132.9 feet) on a hot muggy day. Fellow Zenith pilot Daniel Wright finished in second place flying his blue and white Zenith STOL (registration JRM) with a takeoff roll of just 19.0 meters (62.3 feet) and landing roll of 30.7 meters (100.7 feet), for a combined distance of just 49.7 meters (163.1 feet). Both pilots can be seen performing in the short video below.
- How do these takeoff and landing roll numbers compare with what you'll see at Sun 'n Fun?
- Will the Yankee STOL pilots use even less runway for takeoff or landing?
- Do you want to feel the excitement and hear the roar of engines and enthused crowds?
- You know what to do, then… make your way to Sun 'n Fun 2023. See you in Lakeland!
A winning airshow attraction over the last few years has been STOL competitions. STOL stands for Short Takeoff and Landing. Believe me, these pilots totally obsess over “short.” You truly need to see these performances to believe what determined pilots in suitable aircraft can do. I encourage all to come on down to sunny Florida for Sun ‘n Fun 2023 and check out the action in Paradise City (formerly the “Ultralight/Lightplane Area” and now badged as “Light Planes“). Like its counterpart at AirVenture in the Fun Fly Zone (also the former Ultralight Area), crowds can get close enough to see the STOL performances in great detail. Usually you have to arrive early enough to get a place at the fence. I’ve seen spectators 10-deep at both events. Paradise City hosts Sun ‘n Fun’s “other” runway, a grass strip that’s been steadily improved enough that the local Lakeland Aero Club, associated with the onsite high school, can and does conduct flight operations during the 51 weeks of the year when the show isn’t happening.
So, Why Electrify a CH-750?The short answer is… not everyone wants to fly a distance at high speed. Distance is already a challenge for battery-powered aircraft and to fly fast either takes more power or the airframe better be very low drag. But what if you only need to cover a shorter distance, perhaps one only served by switchback roads through mountainous terrain? What if getting fuel to remote locations is difficult or impossible. How can someone more swiftly serve such hard-to-reach places? A British project has the goal of delivering healthcare in remote parts of the world. Their all-electric Zenith CH-750 Cruzer took its maiden flight on January 20, 2023. Their aim is to provide a low-cost, rugged, and practical aircraft for use in rural and hard to reach communities, such as medics in Uganda and doctors in rural India. Tim and Helen Bridge are developing the ‘electric sky jeep,’ an all-electric Zenith CH 750 Cruzer with big tires, "to provide sustainable transportation to deliver doctors, teachers and medical supplies to remote communities across the world," reported Zenith Aircraft. The Bridges are propelled by their backgrounds and deep environmental concerns. Tim has extensive experience in renewable electric energy projects. He said, “Earning a degree in meteorology and oceanography brought into stark focus the impact we humans have had on our planet." Helen said she is "a Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for a global financial services organization," and "a Trustee for an international children's charity, supporting young people displaced by poverty, violence and abuse across the world." Strong in her beliefs, she closes with "…don't get me started on the climate crisis." "The Bridges' company plans to tap into ground-based networks of solar-powered energy grids in remote towns and villages," said Zenith, "so that the aircraft can fly between villages delivering vital medical staff and supplies without relying on outside fuel that needs to be flown in to the location." Given its STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities, the manufacturer said, "Zenith's CH-750 is well suited for 'off-airport' operations, and can be flown in and out of shorter runways that may also be 'unimproved,' such as grass or dirt landing fields." The Bridges founded their company, NUNCATS, in 2019. Now that the aircraft has been completed and flown they predicted, “As soon as funding allows, we hope to move towards getting this into communities where it can make a real difference. There are currently a billion people in the world with no access to healthcare.” The project is still seeking backers and sponsors to help fund its development. How about your interest? The Bridges note, "The 'electric sky jeep' kits can also be purchased as a greener option for sports flyers." When FAA releases Mosaic, it will permit electric and hybrid propulsion, so other entries are likely to follow. The Bridges partnered with Zenith and several start-up investors to acquire an existing design and adapt it for all-electric operation. Like the hundreds of other electric projects, all await better batteries. "While we all know that today's battery technology will not permit the range and endurance available with ICE [internal combustion engines]," said Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith, "there are some clear advantages of electric power in addition to the more obvious sustainability claims." He added, "The simplicity of electric motors has the potential to make light aircraft propulsion systems more reliable and easier to install and maintain. This is especially important for amateur aircraft builders and owners. The near-instantly available torque of electric power can further improve upon the STOL performance of our kit aircraft designs." Sebastien recognizes that by combining these technologies — airframe design, electric propulsion, and ground-based solar charge stations — people like the Bridges may address real needs around the world in ways that have not been possible before. "We're thrilled to see the proven Zenith designs being used for this, and anticipate that amateur kit builders will soon be able to access this technology for their light aircraft projects, here and around the world." Does electric propulsion excite you? Would you like to move this direction, either in the sort of aircraft you fly today (perhaps a Zenith CH-750) or a multicopter style? Let me know in the comments below.
- Zenith Aircraft, link to contact info and all article and video on this website
- Zenith Aircraft, company website
- Zenith Aircraft CH-750, company info on this model
- Nuncats, company website
- Link to many articles on electric propulsion on light aircraft
* I commend aviation outlets who quickly published this story. I'm always pleased when general aviation publications pick up on LSA or Sport Pilot kit news. I wanted to take a day to put this electric Sky Jeep in context with other electric aircraft.
Zenith’s headline read: “All-electric Zenith ‘Sky Jeep’ completes first flight, with plans to transport doctors and medical supplies in remote areas of the world.” Several aviation publishers jumped on the news* from light kit-built market leader, Zenith Aircraft. I’m curious what you think of (1) electric propulsion on any aircraft and (2) electric power for an aircraft used, let’s say, for exploring. If you have an opinion and care to share it, use the comment feature. To date, most electric-propulsion entries have been sleeker designs. Pipistrel has been a leader in this class; they got their start building sailplanes and motorgliders and never lost their preference for clean, smooth shapes. Many others also participated (nearby images). Bye Aerospace’s eFlyer continues its long path toward the market. This development company based its aircraft on Arion’s Lightning airframe, a smart choice as Lightning is so smoothly constructed. This article describes what was then called Sun Flyer.
Let's Unpack the NumbersI am using a different approach this year, partly to give added perspective given the challenging start to the 2020s. You can get so much detail on our Tableau Public market share data website — with an enormous THANKS! to Steve Beste for his faithful, timely, and precise work to present this info — that I felt it useful to summarize the results from my point of view. I grouped all the light aircraft data into these categories:
- Combined Results, all categories, including fully-built, kit-built, factory-built kits (ELSA), and others, even portraying how FAA's 1990s-era Primary Category touches this segment.
- SLSA and ELSA are presented as a group because all must start out identical to the SLSA model first accepted by FAA. After an ELSA owner takes delivery, that person can make changes without factory approval but then loses the chance to offer compensated flight instruction or rental of their aircraft.
- SLSA-only covering only ready-to-fly, separated from ELSA. SLSA can be used for compensated operations like flight instruction and rental.
- EAB and ELSA are shown as a group because in both cases the owner can alter and maintain the aircraft.
- EAB-only separates the ELSA out of the strictly homebuilt segment.
- ELSA are also shown separately as they can become quite different from the SLSA as which they began life. An owner can change avionics, interiors, add equipment, or even change the engine on an ELSA.
- Two remaining, smaller categories include Experimental Exhibition category, used mostly by Pipistrel for its motorglider models, and the Primary Category that presently counts only AutoGyro. Models that pursued Primary Category back in the 1990s (example: Quicksilver GT500) have not continued with that approach.
* I used brand names and model names interchangeably in this article choosing the most common term to identify the subject. If you want more detail, type one or more words into our blue search bar at the top of the page to find any of the thousands of aircraft on this website.
The year started with hope. As 2022 arrived, America and most countries (China excepted) were emerging from two years of difficult lockdowns and Covid. The good news was that a flood of money from the U.S. government had buoyed the stock market and I’ve long observed that in a rising equities market, LSA and SP kit aircraft sell well. No one thinks this is because anyone sells stock to buy a Light-Sport Aircraft. Rather, it’s something economists call the “wealth effect,” where rising asset values give stockholders confidence that good times are here and they can buy an airplane to have fun. Then… Russia invaded Ukraine and global markets trembled. Despite a year of war, of plunging stock markets and sky-high energy prices, of protests and riots in multiple countries, plus on-going supply chain strains and lingering Covid fears, the light aircraft nonetheless grew by a very healthy 18%, after rising 10% in 2021.
How Does Zenith Do It?The company has a lot going for it: reliable, proven designs which the company has carefully broadened into related models; stable management; wide marketing and a significant presence on social media; easy-to-build kits made with high-tech machinery to be identical (so parts fit better); regular airshow hands-on forums that physically helps builders experience the process; and, a customer-service attitude highly valued by its builders. Yet Zenith has one more Great Big Value: a large community of homebuilders that can consult and assist one another in ways no factory could hope to replicate. While Van's, Rans, and the other leading kit suppliers also have large numbers of builders that can help, Zenith appears to do particularly well at supporting and stimulating this community. To wit… Zenith's Homecoming event each fall at the Mexico, Missouri municipal airport that Zenith calls home base. When Zenith calls the faithful home to Mexico, Missouri each year, they come… and come… and keep on coming. Via air and ground, the kit manufacturer may draw more people and airplanes to the municipal airport field at any one point in time than the Midwest LSA Expo does. It's an impressive feat for a single brand. The event is "freestanding," by which I mean it is its own event, not a part of some other show. Homecoming features exhibitors — including several companies that support the company and its many builders. These exhibitors give talks, answer questions at their space, and help solve problems builders may experience. Those attending are not all homebuilding veterans. Indeed, many come to learn more before buying their first Zenith kit.
Celebrating 30 YearsOthers just come for the camaraderie, to see a lot of flying including STOL contests that are especially interesting given Zenith best-recognized product, the 700-series of Sport Pilot kits, are already STOL. Companies like Viking Aircraft Engines, UL Power, and others make more power available to STOL competitors and a STOL event can become exciting. Mexico, Missouri's Hagan Brothers Field is a pastoral setting that is about perfect for airplanes such as Zenith produces. "Great planes, fantastic people, and good weather," summarized Zenith! "What a wonderful two days at the 2022 Zenith Aircraft Homecoming / Open Hangar Days and Fly-In! Thank you to all who participated and helped to make this such a memorable event celebrating Zenith Aircraft's 30th anniversary!”
Planning for TomorrowAs reported in General Aviation News, "A… big announcement made during this year’s homecoming was the creation of the Zenith Foundation, an educational non-profit organization. The foundation’s mission will be to 'promote sport aviation and kit aircraft building as an educational endeavor to youth and others who may not typically be able to participate in aviation,' Heintz notes." GAN added, "[Zenith leader Sebastien Heintz said] the foundation also will be charged with preserving the 'heritage of historical Zenith aircraft now that we are more than 30 years old.'”
- Zenith Aircraft, company featured here
- Zenith Aircraft Facebook Page
- Zenith 30-Year Anniversary, article on this website
- Full LSA/Sport Pilot kit Market Share information
* Zenith is the leading kit manufacturer for a category of aircraft I call "Sport Pilot kits," defined by aircraft meeting parameters that permit operation by a Sport Pilot with a driver's license medical. Van's Aircraft has one entry in this class, the RV-12, so Zenith can lead Van's in this category. Van's is the larger overall producer as they supply several kits that operate outside the Sport Pilot space (though some models could qualify after Mosaic is implemented).
Shortly after the Midwest LSA Expo each year, a nearby company hosts a homecoming for its builders. Maybe you’ve heard of them: Zenith Aircraft? Truth is, the odds are reasonably good that you’ve either built a Zenith kit, contemplated building one, or flew in one. For years this company has led the segment I’ve dubbed “Sport Pilot kits” — those kits that a builder can fly using Sport Pilot privileges. Lead by Sebastien Heintz, Zenith continues a long stride ahead of other worthy competitors. Our Tableau Public view of the LSA and Sport Pilot kit marketplace was recently updated through 3Q2022 — thanks to Datastician Extraordinaire, Steve Beste! While Van’s RV-12 leads for a single model (47 registered so far in 2022), Zenith is the clear leader in this space. For 2022, the Mexico, Missouri-based manufacturer has already almost matched 2020 and 2021, and those were good years.
Ambitious JourneyI've had the pleasure to fly into Oshkosh a number of times. I've also several times flown with pilots making their first entry. Ask anyone who's done it; joining the arrival pattern to Oshkosh on the busy days right before it opens is an experience no one forgets. "Intense" hardly describes it. That's still not enough for our Zenith aviator — but arriving KOSH will definitely be the icing on his cake, so to say. Let's meet him. Dave Tillema of Southeast Texas has embarked on an ambitious journey in an aircraft he built himself: his Zenith CH 750 Cruzer (video). Dave is flying from Texas to Wisconsin for this year's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — but he's doing so by way of all 48 states. Nearby you see the route Dave planned for his 48-state tour en route to the event. "Soon this bucket list item will be [crossed off]," he exclaimed! He plans to land in in each of the 48 states shown. He launched on Saturday, July 9th, from West Texas after flying to his chosen start point on the 8th. "I wish I could have tried this before everything got so expensive, but the stars didn't align," explained Dave. He's underway now, though. "This will be an all or nothing attempt: Oshkosh or Bust!" However, he observed, "With costs skyrocketing into the absurd, I'm reaching out to fellow aviation enthusiasts. If y'all can help, I'd appreciate it very much." It was interesting to see comments on his Facebook page offering him support. Dave is attempting to conduct the flight using only mogas. That has its challenges but several people have stepped up saying some variation on… "Let me know when you arrive at [my airport] and I'll top you off with mogas." With support like that, things may go much easier. Others have suggested best restaurants and other local recommendations. Dave continued, "My current goals: to fly the challenge in 14 days or less, solo, with auto fuel, as cheaply as I can do it (the seat now reclines in case I need to sleep in it)."
Flight Following"Once I get started you will be able to track me on Flight Aware, as well as the "48 State Challenge" page on Facebook, said Dave. "Fellow Zenith builder/pilot Bill Fahey and Jan & Alissa from Viking Aircraft Engines will be coordinating logistics en route." "I would definitely appreciate any hospitality, accommodations and/or fuel along the journey. My final stop each day will be determined by weather mostly, so planning for the trip is going to be day by day." Dave's Zenith CH 750 Cruzer is powered by a Honda-based 130-horsepower powerplant from Viking Aircraft Engines equipped with a DUC prop using a Viking in-flight adjustable propeller (VIP) system. VIP is a variable pitch propeller system that gives Dave an endurance of 8.5 hours at economy cruise, averaging less than 4 gallons per hour of auto fuel. Dave said his Cruzer is "very inexpensive to fly and very quick to build. It's a great combination." The Oshkosh 48-state flight is not the only effort Dave has given to share his love of flying with others. Before starting the Oshkosh flight, he'd flown 99 passengers in his Cruzer. He's logged nearly 800 hours in his airplane in less than three years. One of the best ways to follow Dave 48-state adventure is on his Facebook page, where he is showing progress but also the fellow pilots he's meeting along the way. Click or tap this link to track his flight using Flight Aware Dave ended his announcement: "See y'all in Oshkosh!"
If You Want to HelpHow can you help Dave achieve his flight to Oshkosh 2022? Here's some suggestions. Join his Facebook group, 48 State Challenge, for updates and for details on how to follow him along his "48 State Challenge" flight to Oshkosh 2022. You can donate directly to the project to help cover some of his expenses. Check the route, and if you're close by, you can offer hospitality, accommodations and/or auto fuel at one of his stops along the journey. Visit with Dave at Oshkosh after he's successfully completed the journey, to meet with him and see his airplane at the Viking booth in the North Aircraft Display area. Zenith's exhibit is not far away. Share the 49 State Challenge with your friends, especially those living near where he plans to fly.
“Time to spare? Go by air!” is a familiar humor line, speaking to weather uncertainties, mechanical delays, or relaxed cruise speeds that can slow or stall a cross-country flight in our fun, recreational aircraft. One man created his own special way to log some flight hours getting to Oshkosh. Evidently this adventurous pilot never heard another popular line: “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” (Don’t anyone challenge me with Great Circle routes; this is about a long flight but not a globe-spanning one.) While pilots around the nation are in various stages of preparation for the flight to EAA’s big summer celebration of flight, our aerial explorer is already en route. He’s about halfway as this is posted. Ambitious Journey I’ve had the pleasure to fly into Oshkosh a number of times. I’ve also several times flown with pilots making their first entry. Ask anyone who’s done it; joining the arrival pattern to Oshkosh on the busy days right before it opens is an experience no one forgets.
Happy Birthday, Zenith!Not a twentysomething anymore, Zenith has developed into a market leader as a business enterprise as well as in the production of their kits. One of the many signs that the light aviation industry has grown up is the growing age of some companies. This year Zenith Aircraft, the operation in Mexico, Missouri, celebrates its 30th anniversary. Something to be proud of, the company will pull out the stops for this year's Homecoming. What's that? If you are not (yet) among the Zenith faithful, you may not know about "Homecoming." Allow me to give a brief description below. You can see lots of images on the company's social media accounts (links at end).
How Does Zenith Succeed? — Becoming the market leader in a field full of passionate, talented people is no easy feat. How do Sebastien, Roger, and team do it? I'm sure I don't know all their tricks but here's a few ways I've seem them use to build their lead. Why are such things important?When you buy an airplane kit, the relationship is not unlike marriage. You will need to interact with this company and their staff and this needs to work well. Even more so for a kit than a fully-built aircraft, you want to have faith in the company's team. The designs of Zenith are well proven, created years ago by Dad Chris, so the quality comes in the kit production and the assembly directions, plus knowledgeable tech support. If these three elements — design, quality, support — are expertly provided, your airplane should turn out well and your enjoyment of building process will be greater. Listen to the Customer — All the good companies I know in this arena are good listeners. The best companies not only listen but act on commonly heard points by changing the design, the fabrication techniques, or the instruction set. I've often asked builders what they thought of these aspects of their aircraft purchase. Zenith always earns great reviews. Use Social Media Effectively — Marketing is not a strong point for most companies in the light aircraft business. They may have a great airplane that you could like, but you may never hear of it. That's a shame when they have good products. Zenith does not share this problem. The company is active in various mediums (magazines, websites like this one, video, airshows, seminars) but they pay great attention to social media. This is a proven method of reaching pilots who might enjoy your aircraft. Host Workshops at the Factory and at Airshows — Not only did Zenith have a great blast of publicity when a CH-750 was the subject aircraft for EAA's One-Week Wonder (video about building an entire kit during a single airshow), the central USA company also hosts regular events at their base in Mexico Memorial Airport. At their company plus at certain airshows, Zenith offers "our hands-on kit workshops, held about once a month," Sebastien noted. If you want to improve your technique and learn the tricks experts use to make the process go well, workshops are quite intimate and can focus on your needs. Zenith's top weekend is surely their well-attended September Homecoming & Fly-In, "which has become a relatively big event," Sebastien observed. This Homecoming will celebrate Zenith's 30th anniversary. Earlier Homecomings have attracted crowds and lots of airplanes. Everyone loves the STOL competition. They have workshops or tours for those considering their first kit. Vendors answer questions. And, of course, pilots eat well throughout the weekend and enjoy mixing with their fellow Zenith enthusiasts. Offer a Broad Line of Proven Models — In end all that stuff above, while important, even vital, is not what gets pilots excited. Ultimately for kit-builders it is either the craftsmanship involved with assembling your own airplane or flying the result, or both. If an airplane doesn't interest a pilot, it doesn't matter how well the company performs. Fortunately for Sebastien and team, they are rich in airplane models to offer. Designer Chris Heintz was active and prolific over a long career and his boys sell the best of his designs today. Get more from Zenith directly by clicking on their right column banner or using this link for Zenith Aircraft, which will take you to a page with all our Zenith articles and video. Zenith is active on social media: Here's their Facebook page and their YouTube channel. An interview with Sebastien regarding Zenith's Super Duty model appears below. Zenith produces affordable aircraft (while understanding that everyone's definition of "affordable" is different from everyone else). Airframe prices start at $17,500 (STOL CH-701 model) and go to $32,300 (STOL Ch-750 Super Duty model). Engine, paint, avionics, and interior will more than double this amount — the engine alone may do that — but several builders have told me they got in the air for $55-70,000. I don't know about you but I judge that affordable. Zenith's present line-up (May 2022) includes the following:
- Zenith CH 650 (details for all airplanes is found on their home page)
- STOL CH 701
- STOL CH 750
- Zenith CH750 Cruzer
- STOL CH 750 Super Duty
* What we can track are aircraft registrations, not deliveries. Aircraft take time to complete and some are not finished. However, what Zenith delivers and how many aircraft get registered will become very close over time, missing only those aircraft that never get N-numbers.
** "Sport Pilot kits" are kit-built aircraft that can be flown by a pilot exercising the privileges of the Sport Pilot certificate (even if the pilot may do so with a Private certificate or higher). To differentiate, Sport Pilot kit refers to a 51%-rule kit, where an Experimental LSA (ELSA) "kit" does not require 51% assembly by the owner. Within Tableau Public, ELSA are separated from 51%-rule kits and are counted with factory-built SLSA.
For years, one company has led the fleet of light aircraft. Regular readers of this website already know who it is: Zenith Aircraft. The company may be at the back of the alphabet but they are first in deliveries*. This particular year, however, the company based in Mexico, Missouri celebrates its 30th anniversary. Beginning in 1992, Sebastien Heintz has paired popular designs with hard work to build his company to occupy the number one slot as seen in our Tableau Public page. In fact, the race to the number one spot is not particularly close. Sebastien is joined in the effort by longtime associate Roger Dubbert, a modest number of employees, and a large and growing flock of very happy customers. In the light aircraft space, including both LSA and Sport Pilot kits**, it’s a fairly even contest between fully-built aircraft (around half of which are imported) and kit-built aircraft.
Designing for STOLBy now, many readers may know the name Steve Henry, who has wowed crowds with his 300 horsepower Yamaha conversion engine on his highly modified Just Highlander. All these aircraft take off in surprisingly short spaces (50 feet is possible) but Steve's purpose-built aircraft fairly leaps off the ground. It almost looks unreal. Unfortunately Steve broke an axle and ended up on his nose in Wednesdays gusty conditions. Damage was reasonably minor — an advantage of landing so slowly perhaps — and he should be back in action soon. His is not the only aircraft designed specifically to win STOL comps. Viking Aircraft Engine owner Jan Eggenfellner has competed in some of these events in his Zenith Super Duty, three seater (two forward, one aft) with large tundra tires. His flat back with red accent airplane is powered by a 195 horsepower variant of his Viking line. He swings a giant 96-inch prop custom built for him by Duc Propellers. Yet, Jan's Monster STOL is very different from most STOL competitor aircraft in very distinctive way. It's a nose wheel airplane. That's extremely rare (although this CubCrafters nosewheeler exists). Why? The answer explains the project seen in nearby photos. For an already STOL aircraft like the Super Duty, getting an extra edge may take unusual steps. In order to get enough angle of attack to lift off in incredibly short distance by big horsepower, Jan wanted to angle the nose up further. He became limited by the tail of the airplane which nearly touches the ground on aggressive takeoffs. Monster STOL solves that problem, Jan believes. His dual aft shocks on each side have 18 inches of stroke. The tires aren't tundra but they're large. And standing Super Duty up on specialized landing gear — which also helps entry into this high-off-the-ground airplane — allows Jan to create a very steep angle of attack. "I already get off the surface in 44 feet," said Jan in a video interview you'll see later. He wants to do even better and to further shorten his landings. The super beefy gear arrangement will let him plop the aircraft on the ground in the shortest possible distance. "It's fun and a little whacky," said Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft while agreeing Monster STOL is a great draw at his Sun 'n Fun booth space. While I took photos people were constantly examining this unusual entry.
Come to Paradise!If you are at Sun 'n Fun, make your way to Paradise City and the LSA Mall each evening. You can enjoy very close up and exciting flying as pilots like Jan Eggenfellner and Steve Henry compete. For those that cannot attend, I saw lots of potential YouTube videos being recorded. Stay tuned! News from Sun 'n Fun 2022 continues…
At Sun ‘n Fun, as with AirVenture Oshkosh, recent years have created a new attraction using the Lightplane airstrip at both the nation’s two largest airshows. STOL — Short Takeoff and Landing — competitions have become a huge crowd draw. On pleasant evenings, crowds can be five deep all along the runway fence. STOL comps provide exciting close-up action. At few other airports can you observe so closely, literally 100 feet away from runway centerline. After the main afternoon airshow aerobatic acts conclude, you can do one of two things. You can go to the car park and wait in long lines to get out of the lot or you can make your way to the Ultralight Area / Lightplane Area / or Paradise City and catch the evening STOL comps. When they’re done competing, the car parks are moving better and you’ll waste less time sitting in line. STOL comps were planned every evening of Sun ‘n Fun but 20 mile per hour winds blowing 90° cross to the runway over a nearby line of tress was a bit much for many competitors.
Five Months In Combined ReportThe first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public. Digging deeper, the chart shows that longtime market leader Zenith/Zenair lead by a substantial margin in 2017 and 2018 but that gap may be narrowing for 2019. Please keep in mind that a kit company completes a sale long before the aircraft gets registered and appears on FAA's database. Also, a kit sold may never be finished. Conversely, Icon's 27 registrations this year are for ready-to-fly aircraft although that does not mean they were registered by the end customer. The leading LSA builder so far in 2019, Icon is on pace to register 65 aircraft this year, up 38% over last year. American Legend, which operates both in the RTF and kit business, is ticking upwards. They may hit 29 registrations, up 140% over last year. Arion is another both-ways manufacturer looking to have a much improved 2019 while newcomer Vashon should double last year's registrations. Strong SP kit suppliers include Kitfox, Vans, and Rans — no real surprises but here's a couple observations. Kitfox is on a pace to hit 70 registrations this year, up about 80% over 2018. Van's Aircraft is headed to 60, up 50% over last year. Rans will remain about even. Remember, we only count aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot or a higher-certificated pilot with no medical. Van's, for example, sells many more kits but most won't meet that criteria.
Separating LSA from SP KitsFlight Design continues its recovery, on pace to increase from last year's low number by 50%. Now that we can separate CubCrafters RTFs from kits, the CT maker is back atop the all-years SLSA rank list. Number two producer, Czech Sport Aircraft should be about even from 2018 but is well off their 2017 registrations. Powrachute and AutoGyro slipped from stronger performances in recent years. On the downside, Glasair suspended production for their Merlin that never found reception in the market. Looking at cumulative registrations, Zenith/Zenair clearly holds the top spot among Sport Pilot kit aircraft sellers. Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox are the next big producers in the light kit space, followed by Quad City and Just Aircraft, trailed a bit further back by Searey maker Progressive Aerodyne, CubCrafters, and Quicksilver.
One More Thing: ELSA FactorYou might see that kits appear to be the larger enterprise over fully-built LSA. That's correct, but consider the kit companies have been building their business and networks for far longer and they have lower price points …although you obviously must invest a good many hours to complete a project and some will get discouraged along the way and never finish the job. Yet the real surprise comes when you look at our final chart of this article. Kits appear ascendant since 2013, especially when compared to Special LSA that seems to have found a stable registration rate of around 200 aircraft per year. However, when you combine SLSA with Experimental LSA, you can see that all LSA types number closer to 300 units per year, compared to all SP kits at just shy of 400. Specialty registrations like Experimental Exhibition are steady but at a far smaller unit count. Any ELSA must be shipped from the factory as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA model, as required under the regulation. No producer can sell an ELSA without first getting approved for a SLSA, so to my mind, combining SLSA and ELSA makes for a fairer comparison to Sport Pilot kit aircraft. If you love these numbers, please visit Tableau Public. You can learn a lot more about the vibrant light aircraft sector. Enjoy! Disclaimer: These reports rely on FAA’s registration database. We believe this to be a reliable resource but it presents data that are different than what any company reports in sales or deliveries. Over time, these two sets of data draw closer but will not precisely mirror one another. Data presented on Tableau Public are arranged according to a defined method explained on that page (see button labeled “Where the numbers come from”).
A funny thing happened on our way to quarterly reporting of LSA and Sport Pilot kit market shares. Our first quarterly report in many years should have come about April 1st. It did not. That date came as Sun ‘n Fun was getting underway separated by only one day from the German Aero show. So involved were we in those season-starting events that we just blew past the date. Five Months In Combined Report The first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public.
2018 Results Keep Adding UpYesterday's Day One post related several conpanies giving satisfactory results for their sales this year. Perhaps encouraged by a buoyant economy, pilots are choosing new LSA but in parallel more importers and manufacturers are helping to move used LSA. The fleet has grown enough to generate a good supply of low-time, desirable Light-Sport Aircraft. Any representing looking to sell new machines can boost their enterprise by also facilitating the sale of used aircraft. In either new or used transactions, pilots win as they can acquire aircraft that interest them. It's all good and 2018 is proving to be a respectable year. Seamax is another company pleased with their U.S. developments. We interviewed lead designer and business owner Miguel Rosario to find his lightest-of-the-LSA-seaplane-fleet Seamax is developing their business on the campus of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. With care and long experience, Miguel has built an active enterprise that has supplied more than 150 aircraft around the globe with about 10% flying in the USA. That number is sure to grow with the Brazilian company's American operation, an excellent price point among LSA seaplanes, and sprightly performance SuperPetrel reports delivery of eight units in the last year after establishing their U.S. base. Global sales over many years are now approaching serial number 400 according to representatives from the Ormond Beach, Florida enterprise of Brazilian investors associated with Scoda Aeronautica. This seaplane maker is also growing its installed base in America for this long-established design that was thoroughly updated when Scoda (formerly Edra) Aeronautica took over Super Petrel. An FAA audit proved the quality of their work as they earned SLSA credentials. Inside the tent, we did an interview with Sensenich president Don Rowell. The very popular maker of wood, metal, and composite props reported strong business that is challenging the company to keep propellers in stock. To address the demand, Sensenich is expanding and bringing new CNC equipment. We will be visiting the factory just before Sun 'n Fun 2019 to give viewers a tour of their new facility and equipment. As with yesterday's report, this is not an exhaustive review of each exhibiting company. Yet the sum of reports from company after company reinforces the view that 2018 qualifyies as a solid year. I see the happy smiles of new pilot owners on the field.
At a reception ending Day Two, DeLand Showcase Director Jana Filip reported that front gate receipts were greater on Thursday than either Thursday of the two prior years of the Showcase. Then she announced Friday’s gate was greater than the two previous Fridays. DeLand Showcase 2018 is the third running of the event. Showers rolled in threatening Showcase’s perfect weather record although the rain didn’t start until exhibitors and sponsors had gathered in the main show center tent. Under shelter, live music was presented by the Flying Musicians Association, lead by professional music man, Gary Filip. A catered dinner fed the group and as the evening concluded, the rain died off as if on cue. A couple tents were damaged by strong winds including one in the Dreams Come True booth of Steve and Debbie Minnich and an EAA Chapter food tent. No airplane damage was reported.
Very Light to Very HeavyTalk about your short takeoff… I just witnessed the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, a test flight aiming to transport a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Because I live near Daytona Beach, Florida, I often get to observe rocket launches live. Sheesh! These two accomplishments could hardly be further apart and I don't mean geographically. The space geek in me is always drawn outside to my back yard to get a wonderful view of a launch. I've been privileged to see many, including all the final Space Shuttle launches. With my neighbors who live on the 12th fairway of the golf course at Spruce Creek Fly In, we stood on a pleasantly warm day to see this ground-breaking launch. While we could not see the return of all three rockets, they landed successfully, two on terra firma and one on SpaceX's barge at sea. Because we are about 50 miles away, the sound of these (count 'em) 27 rocket motors traveled to Daytona in about four minutes. The rumbling from those huge motors throbbed on and on, longer than any launch I can remember. The winds need to be rather calm for the sound to travel this far and today we got lucky. Cool! Go private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others. I'm a NASA fan, too, but I want to see these private enterprises take the baton and race outward to the planets …and it's happening. I just hope that Tesla can find a parking spot when it gets to Mars orbit. https://youtu.be/RSc__x0rO9k https://youtu.be/Tk338VXcb24
Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft in Mexico, Missouri is one of the more vigorous promoters in light aviation. He and his 25-year-old company are all over social media and advertise in big magazines. This week his news came from about as far away as possible, from way down under in New Zealand. “A Zenith STOL, expertly piloted by Deane Philip, was the winner of the New Zealand Bush Pilot Championships in Omaka, New Zealand, on Saturday, February 3, 2017,” reported Sebastien. Deane won with a take-off distance of just 12.6 meters (41.3 feet) and a landing roll of 14.7 meters (48.2 feet). See the video below. By any measure, that is very, very short. “Another Zenith STOL aircraft, piloted by Chris Anderson, took second place,” bragged Sebastien. In third place was a Rans S6 for third place in the Sport Pilot (under 1,325 pound) category. Deane’s STOL CH 701 is powered by a 130-horsepower Viking engine.
At AirVenture 2014, EAA hosted Zenith Aircraft in a major project in which 2,500 people gave some assistance to a central team that built an entire CH-750 from shipping container to FAA sign-off and test fly during the seven days of the show in Oshkosh. At the end Jeff Skiles (crew member of the famous airliner landing on the Hudson River) test flew the airplane. Here's a view of the furious effort to get the job done quickly and well.
At AirVenture 2014, EAA hosted Zenith Aircraft in a major project in which 2,500 people gave some assistance to a central team that built an entire CH-750 from shipping container to FAA sign-off and test fly during the seven days of the show in Oshkosh. At the end Jeff Skiles (crew member of the famous airliner landing on the Hudson River) test flew the airplane. Here’s a view of the furious effort to get the job done quickly and well.
Zenith has found a very ripe market with lots of buyers of their kit-only CH-701 or CH-750 models that some refer to as a "Sky Jeep." These are STOL models with short takeoff and landing. Plenty of people love it but prefer a higher cruise speed for cross country travel. Therefore, welcome to Cruzer. It dispenses with the slotted wings and fat tires. Wheelpanted and using only a single wing strut with a cleaner wing, Cruzer, well ... cruises. However, it keeps a very short takeoff and landing and retains the easy flying qualities of the Sky Jeep.
Zenith has found a very ripe market with lots of buyers of their kit-only CH-701 or CH-750 models that some refer to as a “Sky Jeep.” These are STOL models with short takeoff and landing. Plenty of people love it but prefer a higher cruise speed for cross country travel. Therefore, welcome to Cruzer. It dispenses with the slotted wings and fat tires. Wheelpanted and using only a single wing strut with a cleaner wing, Cruzer, well … cruises. However, it keeps a very short takeoff and landing and retains the easy flying qualities of the Sky Jeep.
When you think a company has wrung all it could from a design, think again and then once more. First came the CH-701 STOL, which acquired the nickname "Sky Jeep" for its great off-runway capabilities and short take off. Zenith improved that with the CH-750 that featured a wider cockpit among other changes. At Sun 'n Fun 2013 Zenith unveiled the Cruzer, a non-STOL version of the same airplane now offering faster cruising. We spoke with expert factory pilot Roger Dubbert about the newest variation on this successful theme.
When you think a company has wrung all it could from a design, think again and then once more. First came the CH-701 STOL, which acquired the nickname “Sky Jeep” for its great off-runway capabilities and short take off. Zenith improved that with the CH-750 that featured a wider cockpit among other changes. At Sun ‘n Fun 2013 Zenith unveiled the Cruzer, a non-STOL version of the same airplane now offering faster cruising. We spoke with expert factory pilot Roger Dubbert about the newest variation on this successful theme.
Zenith Aircraft CH-650 is the follow-on to the popular CH-601 with hundreds flying. Company pilot Roger Dubbert tells us about some of the differences between the predecessor and the '650 and he answers our questions on your behalf regarding flight controls, comfort, baggage and more. Come hear the details for this "sedan" of the line complementing the "Sky Jeep" CH-750.
Zenith Aircraft CH-650 is the follow-on to the popular CH-601 with hundreds flying. Company pilot Roger Dubbert tells us about some of the differences between the predecessor and the ‘650 and he answers our questions on your behalf regarding flight controls, comfort, baggage and more. Come hear the details for this “sedan” of the line complementing the “Sky Jeep” CH-750.
We talked with Roger Dubbert about the whole line of Zenith aircraft, including the CH-701 STOL in kit form, the larger CH-750 in SLSA or kit, and the low wing CH-650. But we also looked at the UL engine that the Zenith folks fitted to their CH-650 design. See more about the engine HERE but listento Roger describe how Zenith regards this new entry.
We talked with Roger Dubbert about the whole line of Zenith aircraft, including the CH-701 STOL in kit form, the larger CH-750 in SLSA or kit, and the low wing CH-650. But we also looked at the UL engine that the Zenith folks fitted to their CH-650 design. See more about the engine HERE but listento Roger describe how Zenith regards this new entry.
Some have called this design the Jeep of the sky and one flight demonstration will tell you why. An examination shows the leading edge slats and an overall design intended for the shortest possible takeoff and landing (called STOL) and the second generation STOL CH 750 can provide that capability all day long. A well established design from a longtime supplier, about a kit a day leaves Mexico, Missouri including the company's low wing Zodiac CH 650 design.
Some have called this design the Jeep of the sky and one flight demonstration will tell you why. An examination shows the leading edge slats and an overall design intended for the shortest possible takeoff and landing (called STOL) and the second generation STOL CH 750 can provide that capability all day long. A well established design from a longtime supplier, about a kit a day leaves Mexico, Missouri including the company’s low wing Zodiac CH 650 design.
You may not be thinking about it now while the snow swirls and piles up in mountainous white drifts, but in a few months, Canada will again be a very scenic place to fly. May an American LSA owner do so? While a growing number of countries around the world have been steadily embracing use of ASTM standards — as are used to gain FAA acceptance in the U.S. — Canada has resisted the trend. America’s neighbor to the North has another category called Advanced Ultra-Light Aeroplane (AULA) that is very similar to LSA and has worked for Transport Canada for years. Canadian authorities have subtly changed the game and relaxed the cost of flying your Yankee LSA north of the border. According to writer Patrick Gilligan, “An exemption by Transport Canada (TC) makes it more affordable and less onerous for Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) from the United States to be flown into Canada.” Gilligan continued to explain (original COPA article) saying that American LSA owners simply have to download and complete a Standardized Validation form (available here).
Even very familiar companies like Zenith Aircraft company, part of a family light aviation empire including Zenair in Canada•, has to prepare well when FAA comes to visit. Specifically, this would be the agency’s KET or Kit Evaluation Team. When various representatives of the regulatory agency visit they use a multi-page list to assure that a kit aircraft meets the requirement that 51% of the kit is built by the owner. Formerly called Experimental Amateur Built (or EAB), many aviators simply say the “51% rule.” In earlier times, kit aircraft were scratch built — meaning a builder secured raw materials that had to be formed and finished while referring to drawings, a potentially very lengthy process. To ease the effort and increase sales, an industry developed to sell component kits. These have become increasingly sophisticated with qualities such as match-hole construction using CNC machines. Making it easier for a builder to assemble his or her aircraft is good, but the kit manufacturer must be able to clearly demonstrate how the owner will do 51% of the work, as required.