For a very, very long time, Zenith has been saying they had fairings in the works. Honestly, the lack of factory fairings in Zenith has been a huge gap in their offering. Most aircraft kits have fairings available to hide the ugly bits and make the plane a tad faster. Zenith is a metalworking company, and even the wing tips at one time were aluminum so I understand that this is not their primary expertise, but fairings make a plane look so much cleaner to people and the wind that they are a must-have even for an airplane that is designed to go slow.
Well Zenith partnered with a third party to produce the fairings, they have finally arrived and I have installed them. The kit comes in a box with a bunch of ABS parts with a reasonable finish. Much like the wingtips and other plastic parts Zenith has included in their kits in the past, the parts require some fabrication, prep, and paint, but not anything that can’t be done with readily available tools. The box includes the parts right out of the mold. You need to cut and trim the parts to fit including removing closed ends and cutting slots and adding tabs to close the new slots and connect parts together.
The kit includes some scrap parts for the tabs and finely chopped ABS in a can that you can add MEK to the red line and make a goo that works as plastic glue. Aside from the creation of the goo-glue there are no instructions included in the package. Zenith also does not have a photo-assembly guide yet either, so I wanted to try to document what I had to do to make mine work so others could learn from my mistakes.
Mark Pensenstadler got early access to the kit and made an installation video. He does an excellent job of covering the installation of the prototype set.
There have been some changes since Mark’s video in the kit contents. RivNuts are now included in the kit, and are an easier solution for novice builders since you don’t have to be as careful in drilling, threading, and tightening as you do with sheet metal screws.
Also, the kit now contains some scrap ABS plastic to make tabs to hold the parts together, and some shredded ABS you add MEK to for glue to attach the parts permentently if you don’t intend on removing them and want to fill the seam.
I started by timing the upper strut using the measurements Mark provides in the video. 6.5 inches at the center and it is clear of my bolts, and the 2 1/8 inch slot for the l bracket also worked. I taped and cut the mold cap off the strut profile on the end much like Mark’s video. I also installed and measured the position needed for the slot for the L-Angle. The factory cut on the outside of the upper fairing and then used a long tab to seal it and it may connect better in that location, but does leave visible fasteners. I followed Mark’s inside cut strategy.
I used a heat gun and shop rag to form the tabs to find the curves connecting the parts. Once the tabs had conformed to the shape of the parts. I used blue tape on one side to prevent gluing the parts together and used CA glue and pressure to connect the tab on the other side. I used blue tape to connect parts together while I worked with them so the tabs would form to the shape of the joint between both sides.
The before and after on the top strut fairings was amazing! They are attached with Rivnuts, described in more detail below.
The bottom strut fairings required some trimming so the bolts and landing gear would clear. I measured the area I needed to cut out and used blue tap to mark it. I used a step drill to round the corners and used a Dremmel cut-off tool to cut along the blue tape then used a sanding block to clean the cut lines up.
Once I had trimmed the parts I fit them on the strut and used blue tape to hold them together and found the position they fit naturally. It took several sets of on and off for me to trip it down. I had to make some notches to accommodate the nut and bolt on the strut. Be careful that you know the natural lie of the whole fairing before you cut the notch, or you might force it to bend and not lie correctly.
With the fairing halves taped together, I drilled a starter hold with a fine drill thru both the parts and the opposite tabs. I then opened up the hold in the part a bit and used a 6 x 3/8 sheet meta screw to join the parts to the tabs. I used two screws for the slot I cut to fit the fairing over the strut, one screw on the bottom side of the connection
Going nuts over Rivnuts
Once I knew it all fit I taped the fairing into place and drilled three starter holes from the fairing, into the skin of the airplane making sure I did not lie over any structure under the skin. The holes are all located on the top portion of the fairing. The far from and back, and as far from the front to the middle as you can get and clear the strut with drivers and drill and the rivnut tool. Then I used the step drill to open the skin with a hole just big enough to insert the rivnut and then used the tool to pull the rivnut and set it into place. I then drilled the fairing just wider than the bolt shaft and refit the fairing and used the new rivnuts and long bolts provided in the kit to tighten just enough to close the gaps and hold the fairing firm. Don’t over-tighten or the plastic will break.
After everything was fitted I prepped the fairings and painted them with Rustoleum spray paint that is a close match for my airplane paint. Once dry I permanently installed the painted fairings.
The results really clean the look of the airplane up. The rivnuts mean I can remove the parts easily for the annual condition inspection. I don’t know if they will be noticeable in terms of any speed increase, but with my 28″ tires, speed really is not what I am after, but a one to two-knot improvement might help make up for the big tires when I am on a long cross country. The tail fairings were designed for use with the vertical stabilizer skin installed on the inside of the l-brackets. I thought that looked ugly, so I have my skin over the L-brackets and the Zenith-supplied tail fairings just won’t work. I will have to design my own.
Before and After
Tools you might need
Rivnut puller tool from Amazon
#6 x 3/8 Sheet metal Screws
CA Glue and accelerant as an alternative to MEK & ABS used in KIT