Zenith Announces New 180-hp SAM-EX



This week at AirVenture, Zenith Aircraft, the new owners of the SAM aircraft design, introduced the SAM-EX. Based on the prototype SAM aircraft introduced in 2012 by Thierry Zibi, the SAM-EX sports an all-new look, is configured as a taildragger (tricycle gear is also available), and is powered by a 180-hp Lycoming O-360. The EX model has an increased gross weight of 1800 pounds, with a useful load of 650 pounds. It can carry up to 36 gallons of fuel, and can operate in the utility category. Cruise speed is 140–150 mph depending on engine size and installed propeller, with a stall speed of 50 mph.

The SAM-EX is a sleek, all-metal, low-wing tandem design that captures the lines of the legendary trainers of the 1930s–1950s. The revamped cabin offers comfortable seating, exceptionally wide shoulder width (26-inches in the canopy and more than 31-inches wide inside the roomy fuselage), and a wrap-around canopy that offers outstanding visibility. The demonstrator aircraft is equipped with a modern Dynon SkyView glass panel display system and a center stick with left-side throttle quadrant, similar to what is found in the cockpits of modern combat or military training aircraft.

Continuing Zenith Aircraft’s tradition of offering builders plenty of engine choices, the SAM-EX will be suitable for a wide range of aircraft engines, from 150–200 hp, including Lycoming, Continental, Rotax, ULPower, and Jabiru, and the radial Rotec R2800 and R3600. Automotive conversions can also be used.


Zenith Aircraft Company has manufactured kits for amateur builders for more than 24 years and has developed proven systems to simplify kit aircraft construction, including the use of pulled rivets and industry-leading support. The SAM-EX is being offered as an easy-to-build complete kit requiring less than 600 hours to assemble, making it an excellent choice for first-time builders. Quickbuild and standard kits are planned, with deliveries beginning shortly after AirVenture.

SAM Aircraft assets, including the design and flying prototype, were acquired late last year by the sons of aircraft designer Chris Heintz, the owners and operators of Zenith Aircraft Company (in the U.S.) and Zenair Ltd. (in Canada). Since that time, engineers at Zenair Ltd. have reviewed and updated the design for the SAM-EX, and kit production specialists at Zenith Aircraft have prepared parts and assemblies for CNC manufacturing, with kit parts match-drilled to final hole size, ready for assembly and riveting.


Earlier this year, SAM enthusiasts were invited to complete a detailed survey about the SAM aircraft. The new SAM-EX model is largely a result of this survey. “First, we were surprised by the sheer number of responses to the survey, and secondly, to the quality of these responses,” said Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith Aircraft Company in Mexico, Missouri. “While the original SAM aircraft was developed by Mr. Zibi as a Light Sport Aircraft, several different configurations are now being developed and engineered.”

With a higher gross weight, the versatility of the SAM-EX increases dramatically. “While we continue to see interest in an LSA model for Sport Pilots, the preference for a higher gross weight reflects the desire for added utility, especially since third-class medical reform has become law,” adds Heintz.

For more information, visit Zenith at AirVenture or online at www.sam-aircraft.com.


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