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.