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EAAer's Zenith Backcountry Workhorse

Zenith STOL CH 801
Richard Lauzon flies his Zenith STOL CH 801 near the Ten Mile Lodge in northern Quebec.

November 7, 2013 - While many Zenith builders dream about flying into the backcountry, Richard Lauzon, EAA 1080964, flies the opposite direction. Based at his Ten Mile Lodge hunting and fishing resort in northern Quebec, Lauzon's STOL CH 801 is by far the most practical means of getting in and out. The nearest airport is 45 minutes to the south "as the Zenith flies" and the only other alternative is a 60-mile road that takes four hours to drive and would challenge any four-wheel-drive vehicle or snowmobile.

Lauzon built his Zenith in 18 weeks at Deep River, Quebec, with help from his friend, Curtis Fogal. During that time he flew his Merlin light-sport aircraft to Deep River, where he put in five 12- to 14-hour days a week. He first flew his Zenith in July 2012, after waiting 19 weeks to get his certificate of airworthiness from the Canadian Ministry of Transport.

While he has owned tube and fabric aircraft, he said, "The winters were really hard on the fabric, so I opted for all-metal this time and that's worked perfect." With 1,000 pounds of useful load he can haul a lot of supplies, mail, and groceries up to the lodge. During the winter he parks the 801 on the frozen lake in front of the lodge while in summer he uses a 2,400-foot gravel strip he cut into the forest behind the lodge. Next summer, he'll use amphibious floats to allow him to keep his aircraft on Lac Dumoine year-round.

The snow in northern Quebec begins drifting in early November and stays on the ground through April. During that time the road is closed to all but snowmobiles, but that makes for a long, cold ride through the forest with very limited cargo space. Plus, the CH 801 burns far less fuel and Lauzon considers it more reliable.

He also likes the STOL capabilities allowing 50-foot takeoffs and landings. "It's like having a flying pick-up truck," he said, "and it sure does get used."

The unique performance of the CH 801 and the ways in which Lauzon uses it became the subject of a recent feature on Season 4, Episode 2 of the popular TV program The Aviators. It serves as a great example of backcountry flying in reverse.

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