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 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
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.
The S-7 has grown over the years. Originally,
empty weight on the Courier was a then-common,
now-absurdly-light-sounding 390 pounds
with a Rotax 503. The tandem 2-seater flew well
on that low horsepower, but Randy notes they
soon fitted it with the 65-hp Rotax 532 (which
later become the Rotax 582 we know today).
While developed extensively for two different certification
systems, the simple S-7 Courier stayed
true to form, a light, simple plane with traditional
In ’02 the S-7C was introduced. This much-refined
version was certified under FAA’s then-new Primary
category. It took RANS seven years of work to obtain
the Type Certificate. A couple of years after the S-7C
reached the market, the Kansas company introduced
the S-7S, which they call “the kit form of the ‘C.'”
Because it falls within the weight, speed, and other
parameters the S-7S can be flown with a Sport Pilot
certificate or by a higher-rated pilot exercising the
privileges of Sport Pilot.
Since the SP/LSA legislation was introduced and
after RANS declared compliance, the company can
offer a fully built, ASTM-compliant version of the S-
7S designated the S-7LS. “This form of a ready-to-fly
Courier is in production with deliveries being made
all over the USA and beyond,” says the company.
For $89,000 you can purchase a fully equipped S-
7LS, with a Garmin GPS with moving map, and com
radio plus transponder. So equipped, the S-7LS
becomes a practical plane that also happens to be a
fun sport plane.
Have it Your Way
Regardless of the value this $89,000
airplane represents, that’s still too much
dough for some people. Though offering a
ready-to-fly SLSA version, RANS continues
to offer and support a 51% kit version
(more properly known as
Experimental Amateur Built or EAB). If
the Courier is for your own use, this is a
fine choice, but you can’t use it to train
for hire nor may you rent it for compensation.
At this time, RANS has no plans
for an ELSA kit because they have concerns
about people making unauthorized
changes while officials still hold RANS
A 51%-rule S-7 kit sells for $21,000 or
$25,000 with the motor mount kit for a
Rotax 912. The Quick-Build option adds
$8,000 and will produce a kit with prebuilt
wings with fuel tanks installed,
and wings already covered in dope and
fabric; prebuilt tail pieces with dope and
fabric completed; prebuilt fuselage with covering
complete plus installation of any parts that must be
assembled prior to covering; and predrilled gear legs.
Add an engine (a 100-hp Rotax 912S is currently
about $19,000) and you’d be at $52,000. Including
paint by RANS – for about $7,000 – an S-7 kit runs
close to $60,000 before avionics, which makes the
$89,000 SLSA ready-to-fly model look like a fair
value, especially as you can use it for paid instruction,
rental, or leaseback, things you can’t do with a
kit S-7. On the question of finishing a project you
might start, RANS reports, “More than 95% of RANS
kits are completed by the original buyer.”
Is a kit S-7 at $60,000 to $65,000 still too much for
you? A base-priced S-7 kit with an 81-hp Rotax 912
costs less than $44,000, but it won’t be painted or
have any instruments. If this is
still more than you can spend,
RANS feels your pain.
Ultralight enthusiasts can still
select an S-12 Airaile with the
perfectly workable Rotax 503
and motor mount for a significantly
more modest $21,350.
The trouble is, one flight in an
S-7 Courier could spoil you;
another airplane, even another
RANS model, may not do the
Except for the RV-like S-16
Shekari, I think I’ve flown
every model RANS has put in
production. Ironically, the S-7
Courier was the last one I flew.
I say ironically because after
an hour and a half with Randy flying out of
Peter O. Knight airport south of downtown
Tampa, Florida, I think I found my favorite
RANS model. I’ve enjoyed them all, for different
reasons, but the Courier is a sweet flying
In a nutshell, the S-7 performed better then
I expected (a surprisingly low sink rate, for
example), handled more crisply than I expected,
was easier to enter than I expected, and
offered a better viewing platform than many
In flight, the S-7LS revealed a low instrument
panel line, providing a generous overthe-
nose view. Side windows that are a full 5
feet wide combine with a long skylight to
greatly open the view and light the cockpit.
Superior visibility makes aerial sightseeing a
thing of genuine joy. Simple, comfortable seats
(another RANS trademark) adjust fore and aft.
Randy reports, “We [recently] improved seat
comfort immensely by adding a sheet backing
to the upper seat. This forces the cushions to
rest on top of the frame, presenting much more
foam against the back.”
Equipped with aileron spades that cut forces
at the joystick in half, reduce adverse yaw, and
increase roll rate, the Courier handles beautifully.
Cranking and banking is as fun as
whirling about in a jet ski on water. Yet the
spades seem to offer plenty of feedback and pressure
to assure good airborne manners.
Although RANS’ entry to the LSA race was a bit
delayed, people who wondered if Randy Schlitter
would produce an LSA don’t know the designer well.
No mere survivor, Schlitter is one of light aviation’s
leading veterans, a seasoned aviation businessman
who competitors don’t underestimate.
The S-7LS – as we now know the ready-to-fly SLSA
version – won its certificate on October 24, 2005. Only
two weeks after this benchmark date I had the pleasure
to fly the S-7LS with Randy in the aft seat.
The Courier’s outside door handle is also used as a
holdup swinging inside a rod that hangs down from
the underside of the wing in just the right place.
Randy advised that I enter the front seat by starting
in front of the wing strut, then simply sit down in the
seat and lift one knee and leg up and over the joystick.
RANS Courier is frequently compared to one of the
Cub remakes, but it’s really a different aircraft in
many ways. For one, the S-7 Courier will better
accommodate large pilots as well as those less flexible.
Gaping 60-inch-wide (fore to aft) doors on each
side facilitate entry like few other high-wing aircraft.
RANS has produced more than 450 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
Airaile models. By the end of summer ’08, RANS
reports they will have delivered more than 4,500 aircraft,
a level reached by few airplane producers, especially
telling since nearly all of these were kits.
Clearly, RANS is one of light aviation’s success stories.
Visibility from the S-7 surprised me. From the outside,
the Courier does not appear to have the openness
I experienced when seated inside. The extensive
skylight gives a good upward view and adds visibility
in turns. Through large, side windows I could see aft,
forward, and laterally better than from most airplanes
The flap lever was a little challenging
Randy said they haven’t quite figured out the right
place to put it. Some similar designs put the flap
lever on the left side since no door is provided in
that location. But since the S-7LS opens on both
sides, RANS engineers didn’t have that option. So
for now the lever is a long reach, especially when
the flap lever is in the low position. I found it best
to reach the flap handle by reaching around my left
Since my flight, RANS has continued refining
the aircraft. Randy reports, “We have solved the
flap lever reach problem. The SLSA version how
has an inertia reel on the shoulder strap, and is an
option for the kits and rear seats, too.”
The S-7LS flaps offer two deployed positions.
Randy says the lever uses the two-detent positions
in the lever to address what the FAA inspector
expected to see, so it could not be an infinite adjusting
The fuel selector value is down just to the left of
the flap handle. You always check this before takeoff,
Thanks to precise, authoritative tailwheel steering,
taxiing the S-7 was easy and visibility was reasonably
good for a taildragger.
Before we launched for the first time, I asked
about the proper rotation speed and Randy said,
“Ah, don’t worry about it. Just leave the stick at
neutral and it will fly itself off the ground.” I’ve
flown with the designers of many aircraft and often
they are rather nervous about a reporter trying
things to evaluate an aircraft.
Contrarily, Randy appeared utterly relaxed, acting
as though nothing I might do would upset him
or the airplane. We’d flown a few of his designs
together so I was prepared for his casual attitude.
Also from experience, I knew he was keeping a
sharp eye on things.
On both of my takeoffs, I probably
was holding a little toe
brake. I found the takeoff slightly
more challenging than the landings
when considering rudder
applications. Both seats have
rudder with toe brakes. The toe
brake control is a loop of steel
positioned on top of the rudder
My landings were on the firm
side because I tended to flare too
deeply. Randy’s advice was not to
rush the landing and let it down
gently. Most times that I’ve flown
with Randy, he’s told me I was
“trying too hard.” While he may
be right with that advice, I push
to get all I can out of the hour and
a half I spend on a flight evaluation.
Consequently, I overflared the
aircraft instead of relaxing and
letting the aircraft settle. While
you hardly let it land itself, the
taildragging S-7LS is quite cooperative in a phase
of flight often considered difficult by tricycle-gear
pilots. If you have a fear of taildraggers, go up with
someone used to teaching in taildraggers and you
may find your concerns are unfounded.
One of the most impressive aspects of the S-7 is
the design’s energy retention, which can assist in
landings. The Courier displays an ability to hang
in the sky even while dragging full flaps. Randy
observed that an airplane that retains energy well
and glides well will generally do other things well.
Therefore, he and his development staff worked
hard to improve energy retention. The S-7 uses the
same wing profile as some of RANS’ other designs.
Slipping to landings also proved very effective. I
had to use slips on the first landing as I had only
set one notch of flaps and the S-7 simply wasn’t
descending as quickly as I’d
You approach at 50 mph. I didn’t
observe speed at touchdown,
but when doing stalls, buffeting
started at about 40 mph so you
won’t want to slow much below
50 mph until you are experienced
with the S-7LS.
Dutch rolls in the S-7LS went
well. I used the stick more than
the rudder, as the rudder is a
very powerful control. Despite
this, Randy says most pilots overuse
the stick and under-use the
rudder. It only takes a touch of
rudder pedal to keep things coordinated
so I can understand why
some pilots ignore the pedals
Steep turns in the S-7 also
went very well. This tried-andtrue
model held altitude and
bank very easily. However, turns
to the right required quite a bit more rudder during
At his suggestion, I turned the controls over to
Randy and with the master’s hand manipulating
the joystick, barrel rolls and loops went beautifully.
Randy says the high-lift airfoil helps it perform
loops. I noted that we entered the maneuver at 110
In keeping with my normal search for the least
noise and vibration while aloft, I settled on cruising
at 5,100 rpm, which produced about 90 mph.
Randy stated that at higher cruising altitudes he
sees about 100 mph and will burn about 4 gallons
an hour. He liked my power setting for reasons of
economy but in typical Schlitter style, he added, “If
daylight is more expensive than fuel, you can set
power at 5,500 rpm.” At the higher power setting,
Randy says you can achieve 110 mph if you are
lightly loaded. When more heavily loaded, you may
pay a 10-mph penalty. Once again, this proves the
value of keeping an airplane as light as possible.
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
and very mild power-off stall recoveries showed
RANS has worked all the bugs out of this 20-yearold
All S-7 models provide 9 gallons of fuel per side
for a total of 18 gallons, or around 3 hours of
endurance equating to about 350 miles of range.
Fuel tank sight gauges are mounted on each wing
root to help you easily keep an eye on remaining
Given all the pricing choices – kit, Quick-Build
kit, or SLSA – you may be thinking you could
afford one of these great-flying Light-Sport
Aircraft. A few more details could firm up your
Courier seats are upholstered and
adjustable with 4-point lap and shoulder belts
just like all RANS models. A baggage compartment
will hold 50 pounds of gear. This is an
airplane for local fun flying but also for longer
Both seats have dual controls including
throttle, control stick, rudder pedals, and
brakes with a park brake feature plus carburetor
and cabin heat. Electric elevator trim is
provided as standard on the forward control
stick, and a fire extinguisher is also standard.
On the panel, the S-7LS is well configured
with a GPS-COM. Buyers are given a choice of
either a King KLX 135A, or Garmin GNC
250XL. You also get a transponder with
encoder in a choice of either King KT-74A or
Garmin GTX 320A, a PS Engineering intercom,
and an ELT with test controls on panel.
Basic panel instruments include airspeed,
altimeter, a VSI, tachometer, engine
hourmeter, compass, slip indicator, CHT, an
outside air temperature gauge, oil temperature
and oil pressure gauges, and a voltmeter.
RANS delivers all this equipment for
$89,000, including the 100-hp Rotax 912S
engine. Compared with many European
designs testing or exceeding $125,000, an
S-7LS looks like a solid bargain. Finance
programs are available to allow payments
to make the purchase more tolerable to
Randy comments, “The S-7LS is a
charmer, a well-loved plane with outstanding
STOL performance.” He added that it
manages a 100-knot cruise with about 500
pounds useful load, making it a practical
plane that can also handle lots of landing
surface and crosswinds.
Given an easy entry and exit with broad
visibility, good manners, and pleasant handling,
the S-7LS is an airplane with considerable
appeal. In every way this plane
retains the nostalgic fun flying of the past
with the advantage of advances in aerodynamics,
engines, materials, and manufacturing
processes. Easy or not, the Courier is
a taildragger and some buyers will have to
overcome their apprehension about that.
Insurance for taildraggers is not particularly
challenging to obtain, at least not for
those with logged taildragger time. For tricycle-
gear pilots making the transition,
you may need to acquire 25 hours or so
with an instructor before an insurance
company will accept the risk. Several
schools exist to provide such training, but
you may have to travel further than your local
airport to find such instruction.
If you can’t justify spending $89,000 for a
ready-to-fly aircraft, you may elect one of the
kit versions discussed in this article. You could
save $20,000 or more by going the kit route
and RANS has long experience at supporting
kit builders. Given how much you may like the
flight qualities of the S-7 Courier, investing
some build time in a S-7 kit may help you possess
your own Made-in-America Light-Sport
|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.