Chris Heintz is chief engineer and founder of Zenair Ltd. (Zenith), and was inducted into the EAA Homebuilders Hail of Fame in 1999.
AirVenture 2011 hosted the largest gathering of Zenith aircraft owners and builders ever assembled as they celebrated the company's various models of airplanes and the man who created them.
July 25, 2011, was designated "Chris Heintz Day" and included a special recognition event on ConocoPhillips Plaza with examples of Heintz-designed aircraft followed by showcase flights.
Over the years, Chris has introduced more than a dozen successful kit aircraft designs, including the STOL CH 701, Zodiac CH 601, CH 650 LS and LSi, STOL CH 801, Zodiac XL, STOL CH 750 light-sport utility kit airplane, and CH 2000. His latest book on light aircraft design - Flying On Your Own Wings.
Most experimental aircraft builders have at least contemplated modifying their chosen design, if not considered actually building a unique new airframe. While few of us really have the actual skills and education to travel that road, it remains a driving ambition.
The desire to create a flying machine which perfectly suits our personal mission is strong. One of the established axioms in aviation is that every aircraft design is a compromise in functions.
To get the performance the designer hopes for in one area, some other performance issue may have to be sacrificed, but the designers who can get what they want while giving up the least in other areas are the winners!
Chris Heintz has spent his entire career in aeronautical design areas, beginning with his collegiate studies in central Europe, and then his broad experience in his native France included a stint with the Air France supersonic jetliner project, followed by an extended career with Avions Robin, Next came a move to Ontario, Canada, with his growing family to pursue the dedicated ambition of creating his own line of light aircraft designs.
His education continues even now, as success in any field requires learning what is new to complement what has been taught in years past. The basic engineering remains unchanged, but advances in materials sciences and changes in application theory do alter the medium.
When new things appear on the horizon, they must be monitored and considered as possible options for existing design modifications or the basis of fresh designs While the chapters on mathematics, physics, and aerodynamics provide a fabulous insight into the mind of a qualified engineer, they are beyond the scope of this review other than to report that you will certainly learn some items worthy of knowing and gain a fresh perspective on the adventure of designing a small personal aircraft.
During this process Heintz weaves stories of how these lessons played into his own philosophy. Somehow, like all great teachers, he manages to entertain us while instructing the "class."
Besides the learning of structural issues with aircraft in the early chapters, one of my favorites deals with the "Human Factors," a realm that seems to be frequently lost to many designers. The details of comfort, visibility, and access are of equally as important as crash protection!
If you are a person of typical American dimensions, then you understand that squeezing into a small plane and suffering in the cramped cockpit of some aircraft takes away much of the joy of flight. Giving adequate thought to personal comfort has become an increasingly popular issue, and with the average age of pilots increasing geometrically, ease of ingress and egress are also of great importance.
Heintz's advice for thorough flight testing is another chapter full of absolutely critical information which is worth the price of the publication by itself. His half century of applied design science shines here, and his experience as the designer of his own line of widely successful light aircraft is apparent.
He makes wisdom seem simple and will likely improve your general knowledge as well as offer some specific details that you've wondered about but had not known where to look for the answer.
While any experimental aircraft builder could benefit from reading this book, believe its a must for those building, or considering building, an aircraft of stressed aluminum skin structure and most specifically a Zenith Aircraft Company product.
Frequently, builders fail to realize just how much engineering and the careful thought that go into the process of creating a repeatable design with strength and fine flying qualities. Your appreciation for these designs will swell with the knowledge of the effort that goes into creating an easy-to-build light aircraft.
Make this book a solid foundation for your learning process. The education of its lessons is good groundwork for the changes you might be thinking about as it is an exceptional amateur engineering primer. I enjoyed the read, and I suspect that you may too!