In late May 2010, I gave a presentation to the Bremerton, WA EAA 406 chapter on soaring, and was invited back for a late June hangar picnic/BBQ at the Bremerton airport. After a very rainy, cool and gloomy June in the Seattle area, Wednesday, June 23rd turned out to be sunny and in the mid-70s. After work, I headed to the Renton airport for a quick flight in my Warrior across SeaTac airport to Bremerton.
As I approached Bremerton from the east, I heard a number of aircraft arriving, and sequenced myself behind a high-winged silver experimental aircraft on downwind. I recognized the voice of the pilot as that of Stan Mars, the Chapter President of EAA 406, a friend and fellow AF Academy alumni from an earlier class (1969).
Stan was flying his Zenith CH 701 STOL aircraft, which I had heard about but never seen. Stan recognized my voice landing behind him, and gave a 'follow me' call as we taxied to the south end of the Bremerton hangars. Greg and Trish Williams had volunteered their hangar for the EAA picnic, and had their gorgeous red and black RV-7 parked right in front. Stan and I maneuvered to park next to the RV, and proceeded to enjoy the hangar flying and good food at the EAA picnic.
After the good food and a short EAA meeting, we visited a few adjacent hangars for views and discussions of builder's projects. Since the weather was perfect, Stan suggested we do some flying, and asked for volunteers. Never being one to pass up a flight in a new aircraft, I joined Stan for a walk around and jumped in for a flight in his Zenith CH 701.
Stan's 701 cockpit is equipped with an LCD attitude indicator, basic flight instruments, a VHF radio, intercom and transponder. The stick is mounted in the center of the cockpit, between the two pilot's seats, and has a unique 'Y' configuration at the top, providing for easy control handoff between pilots. After a short taxi to runway 1, Stan demonstrated the first short takeoff and climb out. The CH701 has a reputation as a real STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) aircraft, and both the short takeoff and steep climb out were well demonstrated by Stan, as we quickly zoomed to pattern altitude. We kept the pattern in tight for a short pattern, as we slipped in for a touchdown and short rollout.
It was my turn, as Stan handed over control and I added power for the go-around. We immediately became airborne and started climbing like the proverbial bat out a' hell, very impressive. We quickly climbed to pattern altitude, as I was able to transition quickly to using the 'Y' stick and the secondary throttle on the right side of the cockpit panel. Visibility from the Zenith is outstanding over the side, and actually quite good over the nose also. I kept power off in the flare and had a relatively smooth landing, but was surprised again how quickly we took off immediately after adding power again. The 701 really wants to climb out! I shot another closed pattern, and we almost had to add power after touchdown to make the first turnoff! Stan took some ribbing about his slow cross-country speed, but he really has a fun ship that could land and takeoff almost anywhere. Thanks for the 701 stick time, Stan!
After we taxied back, I asked who else was flying on this gorgeous evening. Greg Williams noted that he wanted to fly his gorgeous RV-7, but no one had asked to fly with him. I again 'volunteered', and Greg and I did a walk around and pre-flight of his red-n-black RV-7. Greg and Trish had been building their own RV for awhile, but found that the builder of N627RV had completed it in 2004 and had it up for sale, so they jumped into the completed RV-7 instead of finishing their own. Besides the beautiful finish and exterior paint job, the cockpit is equipped with two large Blue Mountain Avionics color displays and leather seats in a stunning interior. N627RV took Kit Champion during the 2009 EAA Fly-In at Arlington, WA.
Trish helped me strap in as Greg settled into the left seat, and the large displays came alive as we cranked up and taxied out to runway 1. We lowered the canopy, and I felt as if I was sitting on top of the RV-7, with such great visibility out the bubble canopy. Lined up on runway 1, Greg's RV accelerated quite quickly and we climbed out, not as steeply as the Zenith CH 701, but still at an impressive rate. Greg handed over the flight controls, and I felt immediately at home with the stick, and the very nice control feel and high maneuverability of the RV-7, especially in roll.
Greg headed southwest of Bremerton, where we did some clearing steep turns, then flew a number of maneuvers, as Greg showed off the quick roll rate and tight flight controls with some well executed rolls. As the sun was now setting, we cruised back in a long descent, and I got a better feel for the airplane as Greg walked me through some of the display capability of the Blue Mountain Avionics. Outside visibility was excellent as we flew a normal pattern and landing, turning off easily on the first taxiway.
As Greg and I taxied in, the only other airplane remaining at the hangar picnic was my trusty Piper Warrior. Stan Mars and all the other pilots had flown off for the evening, so I bid Greg and Trish a thank you and farewell, and launched in my Warrior back to a fun night landing at Renton.
Thanks again to Stan, Greg and Trish for the flights, and thanks to all the members of EAA Chapter 406 from Bremerton, WA for a nice welcome!
Stan Mars added a blue paint job to his forward fuselage, and really polished his CH 701 for the July 2010 Arlington EAA Fly-In.
Stan Mars reluctantly parted with his CH701, selling it to Deane Philip from New Zealand. Deane won a STOL competition in 2014 in Omaka, New Zealand, and provided some great views of his 701, with new letters 'JUG', after landing on the Waimakariri river bed in New Zealand.