Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cruising In Zenith’s Cruzer


Zenith produces a high-performance version of its popular STOL LSA


In keeping with its updated mission for more speed, the newest model is fitted with 5.00x5 tires, compared to the more standard 6.00x6 on the STOL model. Cruise speed on the Cruzer is listed at 118 mph, and that's almost exactly what we saw when I flew the airplane at the 2014 Sun 'n Fun air show in Lakeland, Fla. That's 18 mph quicker than the STOL version, and the difference shows up in range while it lets you outrun some of the lesser LSA.

Another goal was enhanced visibility, though the STOL model didn't exactly suffer from a lack of view. The Cruzer offers a perspective that's more reminiscent of a helicopter than a light aircraft. The windshield and side windows are huge and offer a view from below your elbows to above your head.

Pilot and passenger climb aboard through their own doors on each side. The cabin is tall and comfortable. It measures 42 inches wide at the hips, the same dimension as a 36 Bonanza or 58 Baron. It's also three inches taller than the STOL airplane. Even the instrument panel benefits from the redesign. The panel is notably wider to accommodate more radios. The STOL CH 750 had a pointier nose configuration to allow better forward visibility during high angles of attack, so the panel was narrower.

The panel on the demonstrator was fitted with a Dynon SkyView system, a Garmin moving-map GPS and an engine analyzer. The instruments are fairly telegraphic, and the new combination groupings make it easy to display all the important information in a compact space.

Once you're settled in, you can't help but notice the unusual Y-shaped stick for pitch and roll. It springs up from the floor at center panel and branches left and right to accommodate pilots in both seats. The arrangement looks unconventional, but in practice it works very well, allowing both pilots to spell each other with a single control and no compromise with space in front of each pilot.

The UL350 engine provides excellent power for the Cruzer, and while it's technically no longer a STOL machine, it does very well in short-field mode. Factory specs suggest about 300-350 horizontal feet for takeoff, though the delicate aerodynamic wheel fairings probably wouldn't be too intolerant of off-airport operations.

As you might expect with 130 hp lifting only 1,320 pounds, the Cruzer is a reasonably brisk climber. Whenever power loading approaches 10:1, you can usually count on enthusiastic climb. The Cruzer showed me about 1,000-1,100 fpm, pretty impressive for an LSA.

Stalls in the Cruzer are predictably docile, but they offer a feature that bears directly on safety. The listed stall speed is 39 mph, but a full power-off effort with the stick full back drives the airspeed off the bottom of the gauge. It also generates a sink rate of only about 500 fpm. In an emergency, you could conceivably hold the stick full back right to the ground and walk away. The airplane might be a little worse for wear, but it's unlikely you'd be injured unless you plowed straight into something on the ground.





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