Zodiac CH601XL Series

The Zodiac is a family of all-metal, two-seat, fixed landing gear airplanes by Zenair in Canada and Zenith Aircraft Company in the USA. The Zodiac airplane was developed by engineer Chris Heintz in the early 1970s but didn’t fly until 1984. One interesting thing about this aircraft is that it was developed as a homebuilt aircraft, meaning that consumers can purchase the plane parts and assemble it themselves. To this day, it remains their most popular kind of purchase; customers use their tutorials and documentation to build their very own airplanes.

The Zodiac CH601XL model introduced a new airfoil and larger wing area than the older models. It allowed the aircraft to achieve higher speeds with a higher payload. With wing flaps, stall speed was kept low so as to be conducive to use by sport pilots. The new Zodiac has been configured to take full advantage of its increased load capacity. Larger wing tanks offer a larger fuel capacity (24 US Gal.) resulting in superior range and endurance, and the baggage area behind the seat has also been increased to accommodate more luggage.

Zodiac CH601XL

Incidents with the Zodiac CH601XL

  • Number built: Over 1000
  • Incidents recorded: 80
  • Fatalities: 11

There have been a total of 80 recorded incidences with the Zodiac CH601XL, according to the Aviation Safety Network. Most accidents involving the Zodiac have been wing related. Since 2005, at least seven accidents with Zenith CH601 XL’s have been due to the failure of one or both wings, according to the Dutch government. After investigations by Zenair Europe, they concluded that none of the accidents were due to a design defect and also rejected suggestions that the aircraft experiences structural failure. The company also cannot be held fully liable for a product that customers assemble on their own; it is often unclear if issues are problems of manufacturing or assembly.

Role of the Zodiac CH601XL Kit Aircraft
Manufacturer of the Zodiac CH601XL Aircraft Manufacturing and Design
First flight of the Zodiac CH601XL 1984
Introduction of the Zodiac CH601XL 1984
Status of the Zodiac CH601XL In Production
Zodiac CH601XL Production 1984-present
Number of Zodiac CH601XLs built More than 1,000
Unit cost of the Zodiac CH601XL $18,500 (kit only, December 2011
Variants of the Zodiac CH601XL Zenair CH 600,  Zenair CH 601 HD,  Zenair CH 601 HDS,  Zenair CH 601 UL,  Zenith CH 601 XL,  Zenith CH 650,  AMD Zodiac XL & Xli,  AMD Zodiac LS and LSi
Crew of the Zodiac CH601XL 1 pilot
Capacity of the Zodiac CH601XL 1 passenger
Length of the Zodiac CH601XL 20 ft (6.1 m)
Wingspan of the Zodiac CH601XL 27 ft (8.23 m)
Height of the Zodiac CH601XL 78 in (1.98 m)
Wing Area of the Zodiac CH601XL 132 ft² (12.5 m²)
Airfoil of the Zodiac CH601XL  NACA 65-018
Empty Weight of the Zodiac CH601XL 770 lb (350 kg)
Loaded Weight of the Zodiac CH601XL 1320 lb (600 kg)
Useful Load of the Zodiac CH601XL 550 lb (250 kg)
Maximum Speed of the Zodiac CH601XL 140 knots (161 mph, 257 km/h)
Cruise Speed of the Zodiac CH601XL 111 knots (130 mph, 211 km/h)
Range of the Zodiac CH601XL 608 nm (715 mi, 1158 km)
Service Ceiling of the Zodiac CH601XL 12,000 ft (3692 m)
Rate of Climb of the Zodiac CH601XL 1000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)
Zodiac CH601XL Wing Loading 10 lb/ft² (48 kg/m²)

Photo Credit: flickr.com