Zenith celebrates 30th annual event

By Dave Faries, Editor
Posted 9/23/21

Standing on the tarmac at Mexico Memorial Airport, Sebastien Heintz gazed at a line of parked aircraft. Others buzzed overhead, lining up to approach the runway.

"We call it homecoming because …

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Zenith celebrates 30th annual event

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Standing on the tarmac at Mexico Memorial Airport, Sebastien Heintz gazed at a line of parked aircraft. Others buzzed overhead, lining up to approach the runway.

"We call it homecoming because these planes all started here," Heintz observed.

Zenith Aircraft Company hosted its 30th Homecoming Fly-In and Open Hangar Days for kit aircraft pilots and enthusiasts over the weekend. Pilots arrived by air from as far away as New Hampshire, some setting up tents next to their planes. Vehicles bearing license plates from Texas, Minnesota and other states.

Heintz' Mexico-based company manufactures a variety of kit aircraft. The annual homecoming brings owners together for festivities that includes a banquet, contests and plenty of conversation.

"This is an opportunity for folks to show off what they built," Heintz pointed out.

One pilot, Clint Gosch from Iowa, lingered near his plane, which he built from scratch using plans purchased from Zenith. The process took seven years.

He noted that the company is one of the few that will support pilots who wish to fabricate aircraft on their own. Like other owners, he mentions Zenith employees using their first names. There’s an intimacy to the industry -- and with the planes.

When the project is complete, Gosch added, "you know every part that's in it."

Stuart Brooks followed the more traditional route, ordering a kit from Zenith and piecing it together.

"If you can follow instructions to build furniture you can follow instructions to build a plane," he said.

Both explain the attraction of a kit aircraft is its affordability, as well as the personal hand in construction. Zenith kits are designed by aeronautical engineer Chris Heintz and the company offers seminars and demonstrations.

"It's not that we're crazy, we're safety oriented," Gosch said.

Brooks described the build as relatively straight forward, provided you plan and follow a schedule.

"I think I sent one email to Zenith with a question," he said.

The homecoming was more than a social event. Representatives from engine manufactures and other aircraft-related companies were on hand to discuss their services. Experts on insurance and finance offered information. There were demonstrations, seminars and factory tours.

But the homecoming is also an excuse for pilots to take to the air.

"Your troubles all disappear when you leave the ground," Gosch said.

Yet many chose to drive to Mexico for their annual visit. Alan Lansing, a pilot from Ohio, explained that while a road trip requires more time and effort, having a car on hand makes it easier to go back and forth between hotel and airport.

And there are other benefits.

"I camped last year," he said. "I'm too old to be sleeping on the ground."

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