Zenair will unveil a new four-seat light aircraft, the CH640, at next month's Sun 'n Fun show in Lakeland, Florida. The prototype is scheduled to undertake its maiden flight in the next few days.

The all-metal, low-wing, fixed-gear CH640 will be offered initially as a "quick-build" kit while Canada-based Zenair works on certification of the aircraft, a programme expected to take the company up to four years.

The CH640 is based on Zenair's certificated CH2000 two-seater, which is produced in Eastman, Georgia, by Aircraft Manufacturing &Development (AMD). Two rear seats have been installed in place of the CH2000's baggage compartment, the wing and horizontal stabiliser span have been extended and gross weight increased by 270kg (600lb). Useful load is 455kg. The prototype is fitted with a 135kW (180hp) Textron Lycoming O-360 piston engine.

AMD will produce CH640 kits alongside complete CH2000s, and Zenair plans to establish a builder assistance centre at the Georgia plant. According to AMD president Mathieu Heintz, son of Zenair designer Chris Heintz, kit builders will benefit from the quality assurance programme put in place to gain the CH2000 production certificate.

"This will be more expensive than the average kit, but customers will be paying for quality more like a certificated aircraft," Heintz says. Including new engine, propeller and avionics, a kit-built CH640 is expected to cost $60,000-$70,000 - "a third less than a new Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee," he says. The certificated CH640 is expected to sell in the market for $110,000-$120,000.

AMD, meanwhile, has stepped up production of the $85,000 CH2000 to two and a half aircraft a month, says Heintz. The company has delivered over 60 of the O-235-N2C piston powered aircraft so far, and has a backlog of almost 30customers.

Source: Flight International