You’ve probably heard the tongue-in-cheek expression, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
RANS President Randy Schiitter knows this saying in a way no other light-sport aircraft
(LSA) producer can. When the company’s S-7 Courier earned special light-sport aircraft
(S-LSA) approval on October 24, 2005, it was the second time this aircraft
was certificated as a ready-to-fly (RTF) airplane, after first being designed as a kit.
RANS earned Primary Category certification
for this aircraft, as the S-7C
model, 10 years ago when that FAA regulation
was the latest big thing in aviation.
It took the Kansas company years
to complete that certification process,
but the recreational pilot certificate and
Primary Category certification failed
to meet industry expectations. After
spending lots of time and money earning
that approval, RANS didn’t jump
on the LSA bandwagon immediately.
The S-7 Courier was the first twoseat
aircraft produced by RANS, dating
to 1985 when the first prototype flew. It
succeeded the single-seat S-4/5 Coyote
I that kick started the life of this now
well-known airplane manufacturer.
Always in the Game
Those who wondered if Randy/RANS
would participate in the LSA industry
don’t know the designer well. It
was only a matter of time before RANS
joined the S-LSA procession.
The S-7LS is the ready-to-fly S-LSA
version. I had the pleasure to fly it with
Randy in the aft seat. Although I’ve
flown most of RANS models, I’d never
flown the S-7. We launched from the
Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Island
in Tampa, Florida, and flew above the
azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The RANS S-7 is often compared
to a Cub, but it’s a different aircraft
in many ways-not to take anything
away from Piper’s original aircraft, the
three Cub replicas playing in the LSA
field, or the Citabria, to which the
S-7 is also compared. One distinction is
the S-7 will better accommodate large
pilots as well as those who are less flexible.
Its gaping 5-foot-wide (fore-to-aft)
doors on each side facilitate entry like
few other high-wing aircraft.
Randy recalled the development of
the S-7 in the mid-1980s. “The S-7 originated
out of the need to train Coyote
I pilots.” Thus the S-7s cockpit was set
up identically to the left-side throttle
and center stick configuration of the
single-place Coyote I.
Over the years the S-7 stayed true to
form. It remains a light, simple plane
with traditional construction. When
sales of the S-7C proved sluggish-the
fault of the FAA’s non-starter Primary
Category program rather than the airplane’s
flying qualities-RANS introduced
the S-7S in 2003 as a kit form of
the C model. Since then, Randy said,
“We’ve enjoyed strong sales of this
much-refined fun flyer.” RANS has produced
more than 420 S-7 Courier models
in all forms, making it the third
most popular RANS model after the S-6
series and the S-12/14 models.
Since winning S-LSA approval, RANS
is offering a fully equipped S-7LS for
$75,000. Included in this purchase are
such amenities as a Garmin moving
map GPS/COM, and a transponder.
Though it represents something of
a bargain among S-LSA, $75,000 still
may prove to be out of many readers’
budgets. Luckily, the emergence of the
S-LSA model didn’t stop production
of the S-7S kit version. “If you have
the desire to build,” Randy explained,
“there’s still a kit available.”
When I asked about the number of
S-7LS the company planned to produce
annually, Randy stated it would build
24 S-LSA in 2006, a rate of two aircraft
a month. Many of the European
manufacturers are gearing up for four
to eight times this production, but
they don’t have the substantial business
RANS has in kit aircraft. RANS
can afford to enter the RTF market in
a more cautious manner while it works
out the details of production.
RANS may choose to increase its S-
7LS production in 2006, but the company
is also working on an S-LSA version
of its S-6ES Coyote II, with a
slightly tapered wing and conventional,
stamped-aluminum ribs that will
differentiate it from earlier S-6 models.
Budget-conscious buyers read carefully: Randy believes he can sell the S-LSA
S-6ES for $57,000. At this price, RANS
could sell many of these aircraft; it’s
already the company’s most successful
design. (In mid-2005, RANS delivered
its 4,000th aircraft, a record not
attained by many other airplane producers.
This is especially telling because
nearly all were kits.)
Checking Out the Aircraft
When I arrived at Peter O. Knight
Airport, Randy was flying with a customer,
and I watched with interest
as the plane performed in the warm,
humid air of central Florida. After
the short promotional flight, Randy
returned, and it was my chance to
become acquainted with the tandem
Walking around the aircraft, I noted
the S-7LS’ outside door latch does double
duty as a hook to hold the door up
and open, using a rod that hangs down
from the underside of the wing (a nice
feature for float-equipped S-7LS). Those
wide doors make any S-7 easy to enter;
simply position yourself in front of the
wing strut, then sit down and lift one
leg up over the joystick.
The start-up procedure calls for the
master switch on and avionics master
off, and then a key start like all Rotax
912s. The joystick in this S-7LS had a
push-to-talk button on the front stick,
and electric trim on both sticks.
Visibility from the S-7 is quite amazing.
From the outside, the aircraft does
not appear as wide open as it does
once seated inside. The extensive skylight
gives a good upward view plus
adds visibility in turns. Through large
side windows you can see aft and forward
better than in most airplanes I’ve
flown. Naturally, the high-wing design
offers excellent sightseeing.
The flap lever, located on the floor,
is a little challenging to reach. RANS
hasn’t quite figured out the right
place for it. Some similar designs put
the flap lever on the left,
but because the S-7LS has
doors on both sides, RANS
engineers didn’t have that
option. For now, the lever
is a long reach, especially
when the flap lever is in the
lowest position. I found it
best to reach around my left
leg. Pilots who get familiar
with the S-7 will find their
The flaps offer two
deployed positions, but
Randy said that was done
to address what the FAA
inspector expected to see
on an S-LSA; the flaps could have an
infinite adjustment on a kit-built S-7S.
The fuel selector valve is just to the left
of the flap handle.
Ready to Roll
Taxiing the S-7LS was easy. Many conventionally
trained pilots fret over handling
tailwheel airplanes. Some new
sensations must be learned, and your
feet do need to remain active on the
rudder pedals, unlike many tri-gear
designs. But the S-7LS’ tailwheel steering
was quite precise and authoritative.
It didn’t wallow around. Later, I would
discover the relative ease of landing
I asked about the proper rotation
speed, and Randy said, “Don’t worry
about it. Just leave the stick at neutral,
and the aircraft will fly itself off
the ground.” On both my takeoffs I
probably was holding a little toe brake.
I found takeoffs slightly more challenging
than landings when considering
rudder applications. (Most pilots
believe taildragger landings are the
harder task.) Both seats have rudder
pedals with toe brakes. The toe brake
control is a loop of steel positioned on
top of the rudder pedal.
My landings were on the firm side
because I tended to raise the nose
too much. Randy’s advice was not to
rush the landing and let it down gently. Most times I’ve flown with him,
he’s told me I was “trying too hard.”
Consequently, I overflared the aircraft
instead of relaxing and letting it settle.
While it hardly lands itself, the S-7LS is
quite cooperative in this phase of flight
often considered difficult by tricyclegear
pilots. If you have a fear of taildraggers,
go flying with someone who
instructs in taildraggers, and you may
find your concerns are unfounded.
One of the most impressive aspects
of the S-7LS that can assist in landings
is the design’s superlative energy retention.
It displays quite an amazing ability
to hang in the sky, even with full
flaps. Randy observed that an airplane
that retains energy well and glides well
would generally do other things well.
Therefore, energy retention was something
on which he and his development
staff worked hard.
Slips to landing also proved effective.
I had to use slips on the first landing
as I had only set one notch of flaps,
and the S-7LS simply wasn’t descending
as quickly as I’d planned.
The S-7LS’ approach speed is 50
mph. I didn’t observe our speed at
touchdown, but when doing stalls,
buffeting started at about 40 mph,
so you wouldn’t want to slow much
below 50 mph until you are experienced
with the airplane.
Some folks tease me about doing Dutch
rolls during my flight reviews. These
maneuvers are coordination exercises
and not the least bit aerobatic.
Performing them tells me a lot about
how an airplane handles, so they are
regular part of my evaluation.
Dutch rolls in the S-7LS went well.
I found I needed to use the stick more
than the rudder, as the rudder is powerful.
Despite this, Randy said most
pilots overuse the stick and under use
the rudder. It only takes a bit of rudder
pedal follow through to keep the
aircraft coordinated, so I can understand
why some pilots ignore the pedals
Steep turns in the S-7 were also
uneventful. The aircraft held altitude
and bank easily. However, turns to the
right required quite a bit more rudder.
At his suggestion, I turned the controls
over to Randy and, with the master
manipulating the controls, barrel
rolls and loops went beautifully. He
says the high-lift airfoil helps it perform
loops. We entered the maneuver
at 110 mph.
The S-7LS’ ailerons seemed a bit
heavier than I expected. When I
remarked about this, Randy said he
agreed and thought the cable rigging
on this particular aircraft was a
bit tighter than optimal. This test S-
7LS Courier had a total of 844 hours
logged, yet it flew as though it were a
While aloft, in keeping with my
normal search for the power setting
with the least noise and vibration, I
settled on cruising at 5100 rpm, which
produced about 90 mph. Randy said at
higher cruising altitudes he sees about
100 mph at that setting and a fuel burn
of about 4 gph. He likes that power
setting as an economy setting, but he
added, “If daylight is more expensive
than fuel, you can set power at 5500
rpm.” At the higher power setting
Randy said you can achieve 110 mph if you are lightly loaded. When more
heavily loaded, you may pay a 10-mph
penalty. Once more, this proves the
value of keeping an airplane as light
All S-7 models carry 9 gallons of fuel
in wing tanks, for a total of 18 gallons,
or more than four hours’ endurance,
equating to a 400-mile-plus range. Fuel
tank sight gauges are mounted on each
wing root. A slight turn of your head
gives a clear indication of the remaining
As with Dutch rolls, I always perform
a full series of stalls: power-on,
power-off, and accelerated, with each
done mildly at first and then more
aggressively. The S-7LS rolled level in
accelerated stalls, a most satisfying
response. Modest power-on stalls and
mild power-off stalls showed RANS has
worked all the bugs out of this 20-yearold
Will the S-7LS Be One of Your Favorites?
Besides refining the aerodynamic forces
and controls of the S-7 during its twodecade
life, RANS has also chosen the
features and equipment that assure the
airplane pleases its customers, whether
they be S-7S kit-builders or those buying
ready-to-fly S-7LS models.
All S-7 variations include those 60-
inch wide doors on each side with double
air vents (a fact much appreciated in
Florida’s warm, moist air). Upholstered,
adjustable seats are equipped with
four-point lap belts and shoulder harnesses,
standard on all RANS models.
A baggage compartment will hold 50
pounds of gear.
Electric elevator trim is standard on
the forward control stick, and a fire
extinguisher is also standard.
On the panel, the S-7LS is well
configured with a moving map GPS/
COM. Buyers are offered a choice of
either the King KLX 135A or Garmin
GNC 250XL. You also may order a
transponder with encoder (with a
choice of either a King KT-74A or
Garmin GTX 320A), a PS Engineering
Intercom, and an ELT with test controls
on the panel.
Other standard instruments include
airspeed indicator (ASI), altimeter, a
vertical speed indicator (VSI), tachometer,
engine hour meter, compass, slip
indicator, cylinder head temperature
(CHT), an outside air temperature
gauge, oil temperature and pressure
gauges, and a voltmeter.
Both seat positions have dual controls
including throttle, control stick,
rudder pedals, and brakes, with a parking
brake feature plus carburetor and
All this equipment is delivered
at a price of $75,000, including the
Rotax 912S 100-hp engine. Compared
to many European designs approaching
(or exceeding) the $100,000 price
point, an S-7LS is a relative bargain.
Given easy entry and exit, forgiving
slow flight, and pleasant handling, the
S-7LS is an airplane with broad appeal.
It manages a 100-knot cruise with
about a 500-pound payload, making it
a practical plane that can handle lots of
landing surfaces and crosswinds.
In every way, this plane retains the
nostalgic fun flying of the past with
the advantage of advances in aerodynamics,
engines, materials, and manufacturing
Of course, it is a taildragger, and
some buyers will have to overcome their
apprehension about that. Insurance for
taildraggers is not particularly challenging
to obtain, especially for those
with taildragger time logged. Tri-gear
pilots making the transition will need
some time with a taildragger instructor.
This training is available, but you may
have to travel further than your local
airport to find it.
Delivery times for the flyaway S-7LS
are about 5 to 6 months, Randy said in
early 2006, but that lead-time is expected
to shorten as production increases
over the next few months. Check with
RANS for the current information.
If you can’t justify $75,000 for a
RTF airplane, you may elect the S-7 kit
that has proven itself over many years.
The base price for a complete kit, without
the engine or engine mount kit,
runs about $19,000. Add the 912S
engine installation kit from RANS for
$4,300 and a Rotax 912S UL engine
for $13,900, for a total of just over
$37,000. (Prices can fluctuate on the
imported engine, so call the factory for
the latest figure.)
You’ll still need to add instruments
to match the factory’s RTF airplane,
but nonetheless you can get airborne
in a fine flying machine for less than
$45,000, not considering the value of
your labor. Given how much I expect
you’ll like the flight qualities of the S-
7, that’s genuinely a bargain for a fine
What are you waiting for…stop
dragging your tail and start enjoying
light-sport flying in an S-7LS!
|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,
|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
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
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
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
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
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
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.