Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cruising In Zenith’s Cruzer

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

Fuel is 24 gallons against a 540-pound useful load if you're operating in the 1,320-pound light-sport category. If you have a private pilot license and a medical, the airplane may be operated as an experimental at a gross weight of 1,480 pounds. In the LSA class, the theoretical payload is 396 pounds, certainly adequate for even a fairly corpulent crew. As an experimental, the airplane can carry 556 pounds plus full fuel. Considering there are only two seats, it's tough to imagine how you could exceed that payload.

Trimmed and level at 6,500 feet over central Florida, the Cruzer lived up to its name with a true airspeed of 120 mph. The book suggests 118 as a max effort, but because of slight differences in the build process, it's not unusual to see slight differences in performance.

Similarly, range will also vary slightly between different airplanes. With 3.5 hours of endurance plus reserve, how-ever, expect the typical Cruzer to cover 350 statute miles in one sitting.

In keeping with the docile stall characteristics, the Cruzer is also liable to make anyone look good in what many pilots regard as the acid test for any airplane—landing. With a stall speed of only 39 mph and practically Maule handling characteristics in the low-speed regime, the Cruzer can fly down final as slow as 50 mph and still preserve a 1.25 Vso stall margin. That should allow virtually anyone to plant the airplane and stop it short without breaking anything or embarrassing themselves.

Now to the big question that everyone asks when they see a Zenith. Like all previous Zenair products, the Cruzer is an E-LSA that may be assembled from a series of kits. The basic airframe kit from the firewall aft without engine, paint, interior, instruments and radios sells for $21,700. Pretty obviously, you can spend as much or as little as you wish on the aforementioned items, but a well-equipped airplane with the 130 hp UL engine should set you back about $70,000-$75,000 plus roughly 400 hours of assembly time. (Sebastien Heintz mentioned that the company will be building a complete Cruzer during the seven-day Oshkosh AirVenture in late July to prove that construction is possible in as little as a week—with a lot of help from your friends.)

While $70,000 is more than a mere pittance, it's well under the magic $100,000 limit discussed above. Counting all models, there are literally thousands of Zenith aircraft flying in 50 countries around the world, and with the recent introduction of the CH 750 Cruzer, one model flies just a little bit faster.


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