Zodiac CH 650 Surprise Introduction

Drafting behind the more widely publicized STOL CH 750, Zenith Aircraft’s second debut at AirVenture was the new Zodiac CH 650. Available as a kit, plans-built plane or factory-built SLSA by AMD, the CH 650 is based on the Zodiac CH 601 XL model. Developed in response to builder feedback, the 650 has a larger cabin than the 601.

A major improvement is the larger canopy with increased headroom. Staff engineer Caleb Gebhardt noted, “We changed the latching system so it’s simpler and easier to build. The lighter canopy is easier to control in windy conditions, and when you’re sitting on the ramp, it won’t pop up on you.” The 601 XL latch is in the canopy frame, and the studs are on the fuselage. On the new system, the latch is built into the fuselage so you keep the heavy pieces of the system on the fuselage; the studs are built into the framework. It also offers rollover protection in the canopy system using vertical tubes.

Gebhardt adds, “The 650 is a combination of the XLs in different markets: the European XL, the AMD factory-built plane and the kit-built XL. We took what we liked best about all three and put them into one aircraft. We think it’s a major improvement.”

Well, what about the 601 XL you’ve completed (or are still completing)? No worries. Gebhardt told us, “We worked hard to make sure that the major portions that we changed were retrofittable for the XL. The rudder has been swept back for greater efficiency and a cleaner look. We changed a lot of little things to make it easier to build that aren’t necessarily obvious. They’ll reduce build time, and will remove confusion in reading the plans or looking at parts. It’s more streamlined and more clear.”

The CH 650’s takeoff roll and landing distance are booked at 500 feet, with a 1000 fpm climb. Using a 110-hp Jabiru 3300 as an example engine choice, max cruise at 75% power is 138 mph, with a stall speed of 44 mph with flaps, and 51 mph without. With an empty weight of 695 pounds and a gross weight of 1320 pounds, the 650 allows a useful load of 625 pounds; fuel capacity is 24 gallons. Of course, your personal engine choice and the resulting performance figures may vary.

The introductory rudder kit (tools not included) runs $375, a good way to get the feel of Zodiac construction before you commit to the kit. The detailed blueprints and manual, including the serial number, are available for $495 if you want to build from scratch or examine the design and construction prior to building a kit. The airframe kit is $14,275, and the finishing kit (including spring gear, wheels with brakes, canopy, seat belts and more) is an additional $4225. If you prefer to pay as you build, separate component kits are available from the factory.

Want a fly-away factory-built 650? You can buy the American-made factory-assembled and certified Zodiac CH 650 LS Light Sport Aircraft from AMD. An IFR certified model is also available; check with AMD for pricing. The IFR-equipped CH650 LSi on display, with a 100-hp Continental O-200 engine, featured a show special price of $114,900.