The New Four-Seat Kit Aircraft from Designer Chris Heintz
The ZODIAC CH 640 is the newest light aircraft designed from veteran aircraft designer Chris Heintz. The new design is a four-place, low-wing, all-metal kit aircraft design: "My latest design is the result of growing customer demand for a simple yet fully-capable four-seat aircraft," stated Chris Heintz. "While a new design, the four-seater is based primarily on my proven type-certificated CH 2000 production aircraft design, and is also influenced by the ZODIAC CH 601 series kit designs and my Zenith CH 300 design from the 70s."
The CH 640 is a conventional four-seater, with a 2 + 2 seating configuration. The prototype aircraft is powered by a 180-hp Lycoming O-360 engine. The design features a fixed tricycle landing gear, large dual gull-wing doors, a wing span of 31.5 feet and an overall length of 23 feet.
Heintz developed the new design in response to demand from kit aircraft builders for an affordable and simple four-seater. While there are literally hundreds of two-seat kit aircraft designs available for construction, there are few modern four-seat designs on the market: The available designs are either complex high-performance planes (such a the Lancair IV) or "utility" designs such as Murphy's Super Rebel and Heintz' own STOL CH 801. The new ZODIAC CH 640 is designed to bridge the gap between these utility designs and the fast and expensive composite designs - to make it a practical and useful aircraft for the "average" pilot/builder. The CH 640 has a useful load of 1,000 lbs., making it a "true" four-seater.
Furthermore, the success of the kit industry has attracted many pilots from the "general aviation" field – pilots seeking the value, choices and building challenge offered by kit aircraft. The high cost and lack of innovation in general aviation has convinced many pilots to build their own aircraft. Based on a production aircraft, the CH 640 has the handling characteristics that conventional pilots are most familiar with, and even comes with a dual yoke control system instead on the control sticks found in most kit aircraft. The heavier weight of the aircraft makes it well suited for pilots transitioning from Cessna or Piper aircraft. While the rear seat in most four-seaters is only occasionally occupied, a larger aircraft offers the pilot (and passengers) more space (both elbow room and space for overnight bags) and more stability, especially useful in aircraft operated under IFR. The increased room and payload make the Zodiac CH 640 a true cross-country aircraft, well suited for long cross-country trips.
The kit aircraft industry has matured over the years and many customers are now second or third time builders: "The CH 640 offers more aircraft to builders – an aircraft that is more than a weekend toy." Heintz explained. "Also, many of today’s kit customers are demanding more ‘utility’ in a kit aircraft. Wives are getting more involved in the decision-making process of which airplane to build, as well as being more involved in the building and flying of the aircraft. Obviously, a back seat for the kids and baggage is important."
Heintz used the Zenith CH 2000 as the basic platform for his new design since the aircraft already boasted a huge cabin area, and the type-certificated design could easily be "stretched" into a four seater. Starting with a basic CH 2000 fuselage assembly, the CH 640 started to take shape by "stretching" the cabin area and adding the rear seat. New wings and horizontal tail sections were also developed, and the firewall-forward side was borrowed from the Heintz’ STOL CH 801 design which utilizes the same engine.
"Based on the ZENITH CH 2000, the new four-seat airframe was really quite simple to build, taking just three months to put together," stated Mathieu Heintz. While a larger aircraft, the CH 640 kit build-time, complexity and cost is very competitive with most two-seat aircraft designs. The CH 640 is unmistakably a Heintz design – with its conventional all-metal construction adapted for quick and simple kit construction. Kit parts are supplied ready-for-assembly, using blind rivets extensively, which are as easy to set as "Pop" rivets. Many of the kit parts are the same design as the production ZENITH CH 2000, which is being produced under an FAA production certificate:
"We’re probably the only kit aircraft manufacturer that also has a FAA production certificate," stated Mathieu Heintz. "Customers will benefit from the quality control program we have in place while not having to pay the higher cost of a production aircraft." The standard kit requires approximately 1,250 assembly hours to complete, a figure that compares very favorably with many two-seat kits on the market today, while the quick build kit requires just 750 hours to complete.
Zenair Ltd. has entered into a marketing agreement with Zenith Aircraft Company of Mexico, Missouri, to help market its new four-seat kit aircraft. Zenith Aircraft Company currently markets and manufactures the Heintz-designed two-seat ZODIAC CH 601 and STOL series kit aircraft.
Quick-Build Kit: The manufacturing and aircraft assembly experience of Zenair Ltd. makes it logical for the company to offer quick-build kits for the CH 640 design, since it already assembles the CH 2000 production aircraft at its facilities. The company is offering Quick-Build kits for the Zodiac CH 640 which drastically reduce kit building time and complexity, and is also planning to offer builder assistance programs at its factory to help customers complete and fly their aircraft in record time. Click here for more information about factory-assistance.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed evaluation of the Zodiac CH 640 kit on May 2, 2001 and determined that the quick build kit, as evaluated, met the intent of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 21, Section 21.191(g). Note that the FAA evaluation should not be construed as meaning the kit is FAA certified, certificated or approved, but is eligible for airworthiness certification by amateur builders.
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Update: 20 Dec 2010
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