The more thorough review on the Zenair CH601XL and CH650 is now complete by FAA. Based on what we have learned at this point, the prudent action would be to not fly the aircraft until FAA’s recommendations have been fully complied with. For those just joining the conversation, the S-LSA, and E-LSA version of this aircraft have suffered an alarming number of in-flight breakups. The latest occurred November 6th resulting in one fatality.
I blogged on this last spring, “Light Sport Breakups” and the FAA just released a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin that stops just short of grounding the aircraft. The areas of concern: Wing Structure, Structural Stability, Flutter, Airspeed Calibration and Stick Force Characteristics. Any one of these should be cause for concern – collectively and given the extreme number of accidents – you can draw your own conclusions.
I hasten to point out that the safety record of S-LSA (Factory Built models) is not out of line and with the exception of the Zodiac, there has been only one other in-flight breakup that I’m aware of.
According to Zenair, there is a fix and it will be up to FAA to determine if it’s adequate. Usually, it’s pilots that are operating outside a reasonable flight envelope that brings grief. Based on FAA’s and NTSB’s review, there are some serious design issues with these aircraft and operators should voluntarily ground them until all of the problems are addressed.