Three-Hour Rudder



The trapezoidal box arrived from Mexico (Missouri) a few weeks ago, but we just recently had the time to open it up and begin looking at the parts for a Zenith 740 SuperDuty rudder. Three hours later- we didn’t have a kit, we had a rudder! Yup – it really was that easy. From the pre-punched, match-holed parts to the included pneumatic squeezer with custom-machined nose-pieces, the kit was as complete as they come, and easy to assemble. All we had to add were a couple of handfuls of clecos and cleco pliers. Sebastien Heintz, owner, president, and chief bottle washer of Zenith, wanted us to experience the level of engineering that is going into the latest kits from his company, and I was happy to get a chance to see how they go together.

It took almost no time at all to unpack the carefully wrapped parts and find the pages in the assembly manual that lead me step-by-step through the assembly of the substructure. The spar, spar doublers, and ribs were all clecoed together in minutes. In fact, they went together so quickly that I had to take them apart and do them over when my photographer caught up with me. Riveting the substructure together with the special flush rivets that upset into small domes (with the help of the custom nose-pieces) took little time, and we were on to the skins.

The pre-punched holes in the skins fit those in the substructure precisely, and we only had to take a drill out of the box when we found two holes that for some reason, the CNC punch had missed. This didn’t take long to remedy (and wouldn’t for builders of any experience level), and before I knew it, I was installing the pull rivets that hold the skin to the frame. If there was any difficulty at all, it was pulling the forward skin around the tip rib to make the holes line up. It just fits tight in order to make the structure stiff. A small ratchet strap made easy work of that however, and just as quickly, I was riveting on the rudder horns… and the job was done!

Sort of makes me wish I had the rest of the Super Duty so I could attach it and make it useful.


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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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