Zenith STOL CH 701 w/ Jabiru 2200
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
First Impressions: What is it?!
Design Features: Fixed leading edge slats. Full span flaperons. Horizontal stabilizer/
elevator is an upside down wing complete with VGs on the bottom of the elevator! All
metal aircraft. Most of the aircraft skin is .016” thickness, pretty much the thinnest skin
possible to keep down the weight. Gull wing doors with bubble windows create more shoulder room and create fantastic side visibility. Spring main gear with bungee shock nosewheel.
Power plant: Jabiru 2200. 85 hp. Easy startup. Good power. Ground adjustable Sensenich prop.
Ergonomics: Fits my 6 foot frame with some room to spare. Seat is a simple bench seat
design. No built in lumbar support but you could easily bring your own for long flights or
even put some support behind the seat by pulling back the Velcro connecting the seat back to the frame.
Taxi. Tight turning radius with direct linkage steerable nose wheel. Beefy landing gear and tires make taxiing over rough terrain about like you would expect from a 1941 Willy’s Jeep! Takeoff: WOW! Add full throttle, one potato, two potato, stick full aft and the nose pops up, the wings create a seeming impossible angle of attack (AOA), the leading edge slats grabfistfuls of air, forcing them to stick to the top side of the wings. The Sky Jeep is unnaturally airborne! Your first reaction you have is to immediately lower the nose to prevent a power on stall but this is unnecessary because this is how the CH 701 is supposed to perform. Cruise: If you want to get places fast, this plane is not for you. Of course, Zenith pilots have their machines because they love to fly and, if you love to fly, why be a hurry to finish flying? Cruise performance is directly linked to the pitch setting of the ground-adjustable Sensenich prop.
Maneuvering performance: You can really manhandle the Y-shaped control stick to get the 701 moving around but don’t forget to use the rudder. I recommend a rudder coordination exercise with this plane at altitude to practice rudder usage. Put the nose on a landmark in the distance and roll left while keeping the nose on the object; then roll right doing the same thing. Use rudder to keep the ball in the middle. Do this for a while and you’ll find immediate improvement on your rudder usage and “seat of the pants” feel. Another indication that you are flying uncoordinated is the “oil can” effect that you feel and hear when the Zenith is flying uncoordinated. When the side of the aluminum fuselage is skidded or slipped into the relative wind you hear and feel the aluminum vibrate.
Slow Flight: I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced slow flight like this what is possible in the 701. With flaperons down, the nose attitude for a given airspeed is significantly lower, yet I was able to continue to maintain level flight by slowing down to less than 18 miles per hour indicated airspeed before the airspeed completely stopped indicating airspeed and went to 0! Now, obviously there was some forward true airspeed but the pitot tube stopped registering due to the extreme angle of attack (AOA). My GPS showed 21 KGS (24 mph) with only light winds at 1200’. Turning can almost completely be accomplished with rudder only and looking at a ground reference point, it appears that the aircraft is pivoting on the head of a pin. Not a lot of aircraft out there that can slow flight like that. You will want to limit your time in slow flight at those extreme nose high attitudes with high power settings because of the reduced airflow coming into the cowl openings. Monitor your CHT and knock it off before they get too hot.
Stall characteristics: You have to really, really, really want to stall this plane to make it happen. The angle of attack seems impossible before the stall. When the stall does occur, there is nothing surprising about it. Just a simple nose drop and the plane is flying again.
Landing: Like any new airplane, get proficient at making normal and safe landings before attempting extreme short field and steep approaches. How much practice depends on the individual’s experience and proficiency. A crucially important characteristic of a good pilot is knowing one’s own limitations. Seeing a robust tricycle gear STOL plane with big tires like the CH 701 may tempt a pilot to immediately take it out to a gravel bar, but practice and patience are key, as with any other plane. There are some recommendations for new Zenith pilots to put in 20 hours of takeoff and landings without using flaps before attempting landings with flaperons deployed.
Approaches with and without flaperons deployed is normally done with power on. Airspeed is controlled with pitch attitude and glide slope is controlled with power. For a normal landing without power use 45 mph; with flaperons down use 40 mph. The approach can be extremely steep and uncomfortable for most new Zenith pilots.
Carry the power all the way through the flare! Do not pull power out before or even during the flare. Finish the flare round out, then reduce power. The 701 will firmly plant itself on deck and turn from being a Sky Jeep to a Ground Jeep. If you over-rotate and balloon up, do not chop the power. Bottom line, do not pull the power until the exact moment you are ready to finish flying. There are no surprises on roll-out once the Sky Jeep is back on deck. Happy STOLing!