2018 Zenith Open House -The long run.


The Zenith Aircraft open house marked their 25th year in Mexico MO, but in reality they have been around a lot longer, dating to their origins in Canada in the early 1970s. This year was my 12th consecutive open house, but we bought our 601XL kit there 15 years ago this month, it was an important milestone, but I had already been working with Corvairs 14 years at that point. While the aviation media tends to myopically focus on “new and exciting” Companies who are old and proven have a much better track record of assisting real builders. 



 Seventeen years ago, I was the guest speaker at a small EAA chapter meeting in Titusville Florida. It stuck out in my mind because the chapter president lead the pledge of allegiance before the meeting. It was a strong reminder of my years in Boy Scouts. I have been the speaker at dozens of EAA chapters around the country in the last 29 years. It is part of my ‘Plant seeds often, perhaps you will have a harvest in the future’ business model. That night I just wanted to meet builders and perhaps sell one manual to pay for the gas on the trip home. I always met the first goal, and got the second one about 50% of the time. It was ok, I wasn’t looking to turn a profit that day. I was in it for the long run.


Fast forward to 2018, and we get the picture above, It is Mark and Shane Borden, outside the Zenith hangar. Mark was present at the EAA meeting 17 years before.  He flies as an ATP for an airline, but life is just now allowing him to pursue his Corvair powered aircraft building. If your plans are to start building today or in 2035, my track record says I’ll still be here. Ideas, products and companies that don’t last, don’t serve builders, period.




Post script:  A new salesman for an engine company showed up at Zenith, and announced he expected all of us other engine gurus to “treat him as a colleague”. An interesting demand from a guy who:

a) Was representing and engine that has never flown on a Zenith, was made in China, with less than 25 flying examples in the world.

b) The salesman has never owned, flown behind or even seen run, the engine he was trying to sell to Zenith builders.

c) The salesman has no significant aviation experience nor training, yet wanted to be  seen as if he did.

It all would have been a great joke, but there have been a lot of people hurt in aviation by salesmen who just wanted to make money, and had no experience nor wisdom to share, and no ethics about the safety of others.


6 Replies to “2018 Zenith Open House -The long run.”

  1. An interesting demand indeed. William, I wouldn’t blame you a bit were you to offer that such a salesman, if he truly merited colleague status at such an event, would have gotten it without asking for it, let alone without demanding it. Am I right?

    1. Bill, you are correct, I get along with almost all credible engine people, their stuff need not be anything like Corvairs, I just object to a salesman posing as a knowledgeable person when speaking to builders.

      1. So I suppose Wm, you were an expert from the start? And the salesman you speak iof is sacrificing a higher paying job in another field to work in the field of aviation he loves for less money. The engine he represents is a modern engine well engineered demonstrating a 4000 hour runtime in a harsh propeller driven environment. I would be excited to represent something like that. Flying on aircraft other than a Zenith product is still respectable. Do not recall he DEMANDED anything other than respect as a person. Sotty Wm you feel as you do.
        Respectfully, Rick G.

      2. Rick,
        Consider that I am a double major graduate of the worlds leading aviation university, An A&P mechanic and I personally did 5 years of testing before I sold the first part. Brian has never seen the engine he was promoting even run. Does that sound equivalent to you?

        So, please give me the example of this engine turning a prop for 4,000 hours? That is the typical BS spewed by salesmen, now repeated by you. People can see right through that.

        I never sold a single part to a Zenith builder before we bought, built and tested our own 601XL. Brian himself said the engine has never flown on any Zenith. “Should work” isn’t the equivalent of I tested it myself, first, with my own money, on my plane. If you can’t tell the difference, I’m assuming you have as little experience and ethics as Brian, and are his business partner. Congratulations, that’s the problem in our industry, YOU

  2. Hi William,
    I did not get to go to Zenith this year and am only just now hearing about this salesman. Can you give some specifics on this salesman and the company? I deal with people like this all the time and it just boggles the mind that he thinks any real builders would take him or his engine seriously. How many unicorns did he manage to sell?

    1. Calvin, I’m pretty sure he didn’t find any unicorn buyers after he had to admit he had never heard one whinny far less ever ridden one. The engine has flown on other airframes, but he got a reality check on being unprepared to offer any experience or information to serious builders.

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