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

Notable Cases

Reno Air Race Disaster

On September 16, 2011, a highly modified P-51D Mustang crashed near the spectator area at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, killing the pilot and ten spectators, and injuring at least seventy other spectators. It is the third deadliest airshow disaster in United States history. The racecourse was 8.5 miles long, marked by…

Case Details

York v. Tropic Air

On September 7, 2008, a Cessna 208B Caravan operated by Tropic Air lost engine power shortly after takeoff from Belize City Municipal Airport. The flight was headed to Philip S.W. Goldson International airport in Belize City with four U.S. citizens and one pilot on board. Almost immediately after takeoff, the engine failed, and the pilot…

Case Details

Mills v. Cessna Aircraft Company

A Cessna 208 Caravan with registration number N9530F crashed shortly after take off from the Dillingham, Alaska airport. The pilot and nine passengers were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. The plane crashed less than a mile from the end of the runway during daylight hours and in visual meteorological conditions. The flight was bound…

Case Details

McKenna v. Pratt & Whitney

On October 18, 2005, at approximately 11:15 PM, a single-engine Cessna 208 turbo-prop airplane with registration number N978FE was forced to land after it lost power near Round Rock, Texas. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The cross-country flight originated at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and was destined for Fort Worth Alliance Airport, near Fort Worth, Texas. …

Case Details

Fuddy v. Makani Kai Air

Shortly after taking off from Kaluapapa Airport bound for Honolulu, a Cessna 208B Caravan with registration number N687MA operated by Makani Kai Air experienced an engine failure and crashed into the ocean off Moloka’i. The flight was an air taxi commuter flight between two Hawaiian islands with eight passengers on board. Many of the passengers…

Case Details

Fry et al. vs. Cessna Aircraft Company

On November 8, 2002, a Cessna 208B Caravan turboprop left Las Vegas, Nevada bound for Midland, Texas with three passengers and a pilot. At approximately 10:20 PM, the plane impacted terrain approximately three miles south of Parks, Arizona. At the time, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed.  A significant meteorological advisory for severe turbulence due north of…

Case Details

FlightSafety International Inc. v. Dallas Airmotive, Inc.

On October 30, 2014, a Beechcraft King Air B200 airplane with registration number N52SZ, crashed into the FlightSafety International building as it attempted a takeoff from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas. The only occupant of the airplane was the pilot, who was killed in the crash. In addition, three occupants of the building were…

Case Details

Nicholson/Riola Estates v. Rico Aviation

On April 28, 2017, a Pilatus Aircraft Ltd PC12 with registration number N933DC crashed near the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport shortly after take off. The plane was operated as an air ambulance flight and was en route to Clovis, New Mexico to transport a patient back to Amarillo. The pilot and two medical flight…

Case Details

Taquan Air

On July 10, 2018, a De Havilland DHC3T Otter airplane, N3952B, crashed into mountainous terrain near Ketchikan, Alaska. The plane held eleven occupants: a pilot and ten passengers. All of the passengers were injured, six seriously. The plane was registered to Blue Aircraft, LLC, and was operated by Taquan Air as a commercial on-demand flight.…

Case Details

Barnes et al v. PB One Aviation LLC, et al

On September 12, 2013, a Pilatus Aircraft Ltd PC-12 with registration number N617BG aborted takeoff at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) when the plane began to settle back onto the runway during liftoff. The pilot and nine passengers were on board. Visual meteorological conditions were in force for this charter flight from Austin to Lubbock, Texas.…

Case Details