Do Not Fly Zenair CH601XL and CH650!

November 19, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

ZenairThe 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.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Grant

    It’s unfortunate that this dramatic headline still persists on the internet years after the problems have been regulated. I think it may unfairly influence potential builders and give them an innacurate image of Zenair aircraft.

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  • Larry

    Since you’ve written your article, the FAA Engineering has gone over the designs, load capacity and have written up 13 MANDITORY updates. I have completed ALL of those ADs. Now, why don’t you write up a follow up article, THANKING the FAA for all of their hard work and due diligence??? I KNOW I now have one of the BEST Zenith CH650’s ever. I built the upgrades exactly to the FAA Instructions!

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