The Lizard has landed: Christopher Desmond’s reptilian Zenith

You can tell a lot about the flying habits of a pilot by the kind of aircraft he or she owns. For example, one look at Christopher Desmond’s Zenith CH 701 and you would probably surmise that he’s a pilot who likes to head for the back country where riverbanks are the runways and the fish normally die of old age.

And you would be correct.

“With half fuel it will lift off in about 80 feet,” said Desmond, who hails from Sebastopol in Northern California. “You can just tell by looking at it that it has great STOL characteristics, It’s also a very rugged airplane.”

Desmond credits the durability of the aircraft to its design by Chris Heintz, as well as a number of refinements made by builder Robert Kube from Santa Rosa, Calif.

“He really deserves all the credit,” he said. “He is a machinist and made several of the parts himself. Notice the lever for the incremental flap extension,” he said, pointing to it. “He designed it and built it himself. He made a great many refinements to the already very refined design.”

For the non-technical, the most eye-catching aspect of the aircraft is the painting of a lizard on the side of the fuselage. Not only is the placement of the design very retro, as nose art started as fuselage art, it is also kind of aboriginal in design.

“People think it is a gecko, but actually it is an Australian guana,” Desmond said. “Robert Kube, the builder, spent many fond years in Australia and had the guana done on the side of the aircraft using the aboriginal art form. It was painted freehand. Notice that the lizard is hanging on by his toes!”

This was Desmond’s first time to the Northwest EAA Fly-in in Arlington.

“Flying here was an adventure, strictly VFR,” he said, adding that he was able to avoid the weather and trusted his GPS to help him avoid the trickier airspace.

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