Available Fully Assembled or as a Kit Unlike the flock of internationally designed Special Light-Sport Aircraft, RANS is a familiar name to Americans. Even closer to home, ultralight enthusiasts know the brand very well; ultralight aviation is the arena that gave designer Randy Schlitter his start. I first recall seeing the brand at Sun ‘n Fun around 1984. And each year subsequently, it seemed, Randy showed up with something new. Not long into this profusion of new designs came the S-7. “The design of the S-7 originated out of the need to train [single-place] Coyote I pilots,” Randy explains, “so the cockpit was set up the same with throttle on the left, and stick in the middle.” Randy adds that he named the Courier in honor of one of his favorite planes, the STOLperforming Helio Courier. The S-7 Courier was the first 2-seater produced by RANS, dating to 1985 when the first prototype flew, succeeding the S-4/5 single-seater that kick-started the aviation business of the nowwell- known airplane manufacturer.
|Empty weight||750 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,232 pounds|
|Wing area||147.1 square feet|
|Wing loading||9.3 pounds/square feet|
|Useful Load||482 pounds|
|Payload (with full fuel)||374 pounds|
|Cabin Interior||30 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||18 gallons|
|Baggage area||50 pounds|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912S|
|Power loading||12.3 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||96 kt / 110 mph|
|Stall Speed (Flaps)||45 mph|
|Stall Speed||50 mph|
|Never exceed speed||113 kt / 130 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||850 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||325 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||340 feet|
|Range (powered)||250 miles / 3 hours|
|Fuel Consumption||about 4.9 gph|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 with electric starter, basic panel instruments, flaps, very wide doors on both sides, hydraulic brakes, adjustable seats, electric flaps and pitch trim, dual controls, cabin heating, 4-point seat belts, ventilation, baggage area.|
|Options||Numerous additional instrumentation including glass displays, radio choices, lighting packages, fuselage covers.|
|Construction||Welded steel airframe, fiberglass cowl and wheel pants, fabric-covered wing, fuselage, and tail skins. Made in the USA; distributed to American dealers by American manufacturer.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - RANS is a long-time supplier and a successful one: 4,000+ airplanes delivered. Sturdy, well-proven welded steel fuselage. Tandem 2-seater gives great visibility for each occupant and is easier to negotiate entry than other tandems. The Courier is a well-harmonized airframe design that can please most pilots.
Cons - Many instructors who want to see their students' eyes do not prefer tandem seating. Taildraggers cause apprehension among some buyers and will require extra instruction to gain insurance if no prior experience has been logged. Fabric covering appears old-fashioned to some buyers.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Flaps are effective though slips also work very well; two-detent positions tell the position by tactile feel alone. Trim is electric with infinite adjustment (though no indicator other than outside visual check). Conventionally trained pilots will appreciate toe brakes at both seats.
Cons - Trim is located only on the forward. Flap lever is a bit challenging to reach (see article for improvement); I went outside my leg and struggled to reach a zero-flaps position. No flap position indicated (though the surfaces are just outside the cockpit and easily verified visually).
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Panel space isn't large but has plenty of room for all you need. All controls within an easy grip (though I stretched a bit to fully retract the flaps). Seats adjust and, though they look small, will be comfortable for all but the largest Americans. Unusually wide doors offer lots of visibility and ease entry.
Cons - Rear seat, as in most tandems, has no engine controls except throttle. No trim in rear (without optional choices). Instruments are harder to see from rear (without adding optional rear instrumentation; even then limited by space). Tandem seating will limit the number of resale buyers.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - The S-7 is better suited to off-field landings than most SLSA (especially tri-gear models). Toe brakes aid ramp maneuvering. RANS-brand full-swivel tailwheel works well.Wide-open visibility in most all directions thanks to 60-inch-wide doors and overhead skylight, plus a low instrument panel.
Cons - Rear-seat visibility is less open (though still better than many tandem designs). Turn radius seems wide until you break loose the full swiveling tailwheel. Though the S-7 proved to be a docile taildragger, they all take more attention than tri-gear designs.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Visibility during takeoff and landing is excellent, even for a taildragger. The S-7 likes to ease down to an unchallenging landing (full-stall landings weren't as successful). Flaps help steepen approaches, though slips are also highly effective (and don't demand a reach to the flap lever). Excellent energy retention and strong glide help landing ease.
Cons - Taildragger landings require more attention than tri-gear landings (though the S-7 is less challenging than many taildraggers I've evaluated). Landings from the rear seat definitely require more experience. Best to let the S-7 land "in its time," which may be difficult for those who want to control landings.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Adverse yaw was surprisingly modest, perhaps owing to the spade-equipped ailerons of the S-7. Reversing 45° bank turns (Dutch rolls) went well to good angles, a reliable sign of good handling. Controls felt crisp even down to stall break. Handling in crosswind conditions posed little challenge. Rudder is powerful.
Cons - Spades make for handling lightness that not all pilots may appreciate even if you can get used to them quickly. You can overuse the rudders, as the surface is potent (though this can work well for conventionally-trained pilots not used to much rudder input).
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Climb is more than adequate at 850 fpm. Cruise is good for this configuration and construction; 100-mph speed is easily achieved at modest fuel burn. Sink rate was low and glide was long - good benchmarks for overall performance in light planes. Slow flying is very pleasant and easily controlled.
Cons - The Courier has gained quite a bit of weight as engines increased to the heavy Rotax 912 from the light Rotax 503 2-stroke; performance (and handling) commonly suffer from additional weight. Endurance with 18 gallons on board is less than many SLSA offerings (which frequently carry 25 to 30 gallons).
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - All stalls showed benign qualities with no significant breakthrough. Accelerated (banked) stalls rolled to level. Longitudinal stability tests were positive. Lateral stability check showed no tendency to wrap up tighter. Steep turns held bank angle easily (even without adding excess power).
Cons - Throttle response lagged slightly before going in the proper direction; that is, on power-up, the nose rose slowly though on power-down the nose dropped somewhat faster than expected (before recovering virtually on its own). No spins attempted because no parachute was installed.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Given many price options (and optional extras) the S-7/S-7LS offer choices for most budgets (and if not, you could always choose a 2-stroke-powered S-12). Reliable airplane with many years of user experience. RANS is one of the most solid businesses in U.S. light aviation, an excellent choice for those concerned with international purchases.
Cons - At $89,000, an S-7LS may have a reasonable price point, but it's still a lot of money for many light plane enthusiasts (though, as the article clarifies, you have ways to lower the cost). Taildraggers simply aren't for everyone, a fact that may affect your eventual resale. Tandem seating also isn't for everyone.