SPLOG By DAN JOHNSON
Bad as in-flight break-up accidents are, many opinions blur the big picture. Last spring NTSB recommended FAA “ground the fleet,” so to say, of Zenith Air and AMD’s CH-601 aircraft. FAA chose further study. When additional CH-601s became involved, media outlets and other organizations jumped on the bandwagon.
Let’s review: The focus is on the CH-601XL, of which about 1,500 kits have been sold since its introduction in 1984. Approximately half are complete and flying, according to Zenith boss Sebastien Heintz. Of the airplanes that broke up, two were fully-built SLSA. One was built by Czech Aircraft Works, the other by AMD. The rest are owner-built kits… essentially one-off airplanes. Comparing one to a factory-built airplane is apples and oranges.
Some allege Zenith and AMD have ignored the problem, but lots of detailed info on Zenith’s website suggests otherwise.
Heintz buttressed this, saying, “We believe our effort is an example of an industry doing the right thing. Zenith has not ignored this situation. We stepped up and worked hard to create an ‘Upgrade Package’ that beefs up the aircraft substantially. We are making the package available to builders for $350, which is below our cost. FAA has recommended the upgrade package, advising owners not to fly until finishing the project.”
Designer Chris Heintz says, “…after thousands of man-hours of investigations, multiple design reviews and an unheard-of amount of testing, the accidents in question still do not share a common cause.” But he believes the strategically-added components more than do the job. “With all the changes installed, it will be that much more difficult for a pilot to inadvertently ‘over-stress’ the aircraft.”
For more information: ZenithAir.com.