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Unprecedented Action

FAA grounds Zodiac 601XL and 650 S-LSA until compliance with AMD Safety Alert

November 12, 2009 — For the first time in history, the FAA has suspended issuance of any new airworthiness certificates for an entire fleet of special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) - the Zodiac CH601XL and CH650 - and the FAA will not issue airworthiness certificates to experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) and amateur built versions of CH601XL and CH650 aircraft until modified in a manner consistent with the manufacturer’s safety alert is performed.

A fatal crash by a Zodiac last week was the most recent in a string of accidents since 2005 involving Zodiac models. The agency’s investigation uncovered areas of concern related to wing structure, airspeed calibration, and stick-force characteristics, among other items.

This unprecedented action, issued by the FAA on Thursday, November 12, follows a Safety Alert issued by Aircraft Manufacturers and Design (AMD), which came after FAA’s Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) was issued on November 7. Thursday’s memorandum prevents issuance of any new S-LSA airworthiness certificates until they are in compliance with the AMD safety alert, and effectively grounds those S-LSA already certificated. For certificated E-LSA and amateur-built CH601XL and CH650 aircraft, the FAA strongly recommends current owners to comply with actions contained in AMD’s Safety Alert.

Upon receipt of the FAA’s SAIB November 7, EAA promptly recommended that owners of these aircraft not operate them until wing maintenance is completed to comply with the FAA’s SAIB. EAA also issued a letter to its Technical Counselors  updating them on the developments and will have more to say about this situation after completing a full review of the information.

AMD,’s Safety Alert provides details about an Upgrade Package that will be made available to all builders and owners of kit versions of the aircraft, including detailed, step-by-step installation instructions. 

The Safety Alert includes upgrades outlined on Drawings 6-ZU-1, 6-ZU-2, and 6-ZU-3. AMD also drafted a document titled Questions and Answers with Chris Heintz to help builders and owners understand these upgrades, which were recently structurally tested and independently verified (Document 369).  “We are committed to working with all builders and owners so that they may resume building and operating their aircraft as soon as possible by incorporating the updates at minimal cost and inconvenience,” the company stated.

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