Zenith becomes backcountry workhorse

PEMBROKE, Quebec — While many Zenith builders dream about flying into the backcountry, Richard Lauzon, 56, flies the opposite direction. Based at the Ten Mile Lodge in northern Quebec, Lauzon says his STOL CH 801 is by far the most practical means of getting in and out of his hunting/fishing resort.

AV-Zenith6The nearest airport is 45 minutes to the south in the Zenith. The alternative is a 60-mile road that takes four hours to drive and would challenge any 4WD or snowmobile.

Lauzon built his Zenith in 18 weeks in Deep River, Quebec, with a lot of help from his friend, Curtis Fogal. During that time, he flew his LSA, a Merlin, down to Deep River, where he put in five 12-14-hour days each week. He first flew his Zenith in July 2012, after waiting 19 weeks to get his Certificate of Airworthiness from the Canadian Ministry of Transport.

While he has owned tube and fabric aircraft, he says “the winters were really hard on the fabric, so I opted for all metal this time and that’s worked perfect”

2012 1096With the 1,000-pound useful load factor, he can haul a lot of supplies, mail and groceries up to his lodge. In the winter, he parks the aircraft on the frozen lake in front of the lodge and in summer he uses a 2,400-foot gravel strip he cut into the forest behind the lodge. Next summer, he’ll be using amphibious floats to allow him to keep his aircraft on Lac Dumoine year round.

The snow begins drifting in early November and stays on the ground through April. During that time the road is closed to all but snowmobiles, but it’s a long, cold ride through the forest with limited space for bringing back materials, he noted.

2012 833 (2)The CH 801 burns far less fuel and Lauzon considers it more reliable. He said he also likes the fact that the Zenith is airborne and lands in about 50 feet. “It’s like having a flying pick-up truck,” he said, “and it sure does get used.”

The CH 801 and the ways in which Lauzon utilizes it became the subject of a recent feature on The Aviators TV (season 4, episode 2).

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