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Wed, Jul 27, 2011

Zenith Aircraft Founder Honored for Forty Years of Light Aircraft Designs

Over 50 Aircraft Designed by Chris Heintz Convene in Oshkosh

By Maxine Scheer

EAA designated July 25, 2011 as the Official Chris Heintz Day and over 50 owners and builders of the aircraft he designed convened at AirVenture this week to honor Chris and be part of the world’s largest gathering of experimental aircraft. Through the company he started, literally in his garage, Zenair Ltd., Chris has introduced more than twelve successful kit aircraft designs that are estimated to have produced more than 800 aircraft presently flying around the world in 48 different countries.  Chris came to Oshkosh from France, where he is retired to meet with dozens of aircraft builders at Conocco Phillip’s Plaza, surrounded by gleaming models of his legacy, now known as Zenith Aircraft.

An accomplished aeronautical engineer, Chris worked for Aerospatiale on the supersonic Concorde jetliner, and later became chief engineer at Avions Robin (France) where he designed several fully-certified two and four seat all-metal production aircraft.

Chris’ four sons have taken over the business and ANN had the opportunity to talk with son Sebastian Heintz, Zenith President, about his father’s accomplishments and the company’s role in the kit building world. “Today was special for my dad and we appreciate the gesture of EAA in recognizing his accomplishments. Chris is a teacher at heart and his love is to teach people how to build an airplane, especially those who think they can’t. It made his day when a customer called to say that they had their first flight in their aircraft that day.”

Sebastian described how he and his brothers were running the business together, while living in different parts of the world. “Our vision for the company is simple, as dad did a great job in setting things in motion. Our job is to keep in going, which in aviation is always a challenge.  But we see that the desire to fly is there and we want to continue to provide simple designs that keeps flying affordable.” He also credited CNC technology as significantly accelerating the time it takes for the average aircraft builder to complete their aircraft.

Sebastian described how all of the parts of the Zenith kits are produced at the company’s headquarters in Central Missouri at the airport in a town called Mexico.

Larry Zepp

Praise for Heintz design quality, buildability and ease of flying were echoed by a number of Zenith owners and builders that attended the award ceremony.  Larry Zep, who identified himself as a representative from EAA Chapter 2 in Fort Wayne, IN, was studying the completed Zenith Zodiac CH 650B. “I am building a Zodiac CH 650B and I chose a Zenith aircraft because they are easy to build and great to fly.  I get a lot of help from Zenith and watch the DVDs from their home-build help.  I estimate this aircraft will take maybe 500-600 man hours vs. thousands for most other aircraft.  Once you get used to the construction, and trust the plans, then it moves fast.”   Larry also chose Zenith because of how they structured their purchases, where he was able to buy sections of the kit vs. buying it all at once.

Sebastian noted that the main difference today versus 20 years ago is that the average person can still build an airplane and maintain a life.  He estimated that it typically takes 1 year to build a Zenith today vs. twenty-years ago when it was 3 or 4 years.  He also speculated that kit completion ratios are much higher.

For those interested in learning more about Zenith Aircraft, representatives can be found in the North Aircraft Display Area, Booth 640 and 641.  Located nearby are the 50+ Zenith aircraft that flew in for the events to honor Chris Heintz.  More information can also be found on their website.

FMI: www.zenithair.com


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