Mexico, Missouri, April 17, 2015: Mark Spencer, founder and CEO of Avilution, an aviation technology company that develops innovative software solutions for aircraft systems, wanted to build a showcase and flying platform for his software. He needed a well-known Experimental airframe that had plenty of room and plenty of predictable performance, and he needed it fast.
Spencer explained, “We needed a platform for the avionics, and it was a first-time build for everyone. I already had a Diamond and an Eclipse, so we wanted something that would be fun, as well. Specifically, I needed something Experimental!
Tad Justus, co-builder, said, “We visited the Zenith factory; the CH750 STOL looked like an airplane we could build.” Why? The CH750 is available in both STOL and Cruzer models; it accommodates half a dozen popular engines; it has plenty of accessible room on and behind the instrument panel; it has a good reputation across the industry. In addition, it is one of the quickest-build airplane kits available. The kits are produced with CNC machines and parts are supplied not only pre-drilled but also match-drilled. Parts are ready for assembly right out of the box. The factory and a team of volunteers built one from zero to flying in one week last July, at the giant Airventure Oshkosh fly-in in Wisconsin, definitively proving to the aviation community how quick and easy Zenith kits are to put together.
So, “We asked them if they thought we could finish it in 6 months; they said, ‘probably.’ Well, we got the kit in June and made first flight in November of last year.
Partly because Spencer wanted to showcase Avilution’s single-lever power control – the software drives the propeller governors – they chose an engine that doesn’t have throttle-by-wire. “The Rotax 912iS also is well-known and has a straightforward CAN bus. On our CH750 STOL, we used an MT governor, which is controlled by our software.”
80% finished, with 80% to go.
“I thought that once we had the wings on and the airframe together, we’d be almost finished.” It only looked almost finished. “There’s a lot more work – the engine installation was a significant bit of work, much more than we had anticipated.” Spencer and his friends learned a few things, as well: “For instance, we had already attached the firewall; we should have put the holes in it, first. We did a lot of work on the airplane that we would do on the bench, if we were to do it again.”
“But I was blown away by the fact that we actually could do this in five months, especially since we were all novice builders.”
Didn’t feel alone
“The online Zenith resources helped a bunch; there are a lot of really dedicated people on the Forums. The drawings and instructions are reassuring, especially some big things, for instance, how to build the wings.” Spencer got the quick-build fuselage kit, and initially was a bit worried about doing enough work to qualify under the FAA’s “51% Rule.” In fact, at the beginning, “We didn’t want to ask for too much help, but the amount of work we got credit for was well over the 51% we needed.”
2-man flight test crew
When they were ready to pull it out of the hangar at Huntsville International Airport, flight testing went incredibly smoothly. Paul Coleman, Director of Flight Operations and Chief Test Pilot said, “We incorporated the FAA’s new APP (Additional Pilot Program) program in flight test – one of the very the first Experimental aircraft to do so.” Having additional resources in the cockpit allowed a much safer experience – twice the pilots for flying and data logging; “plus, we could ask each other questions during the flight.”
Five months, start to finish, with rookie builders.
The CH750 will be heading to Sun ‘n Fun (April 21-26), where Avilution will make its big new product announcement with the help of their new CH750 STOL demonstrator, at the Zenith display (MD26B).
More: www.zenithair.com ; www.avilution.com [ home ]