RANS S10 Sakota, RANS S10 Sakota experimental aircraft, RANS S10 Sakota experimental light sport aircraft (ELSA), Lightsport Aircraft Pilot News newsmagazine.

Lightsport Aircraft Pilot is a directory of aircraft that generally fit into what are described as ultralight aircraft, advanced ultralight aircraft, light sport aircraft, experimental light sport aircraft, experimental aircraft, amateur built aircraft, ELSA or homebuilt aircraft in the United States and Canada. These include weight shift aircraft, more commonly known as trikes, powered parachutes, and powered para-gliders.

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RANS S10 Sakota Index

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RANS S10 Sakota ultralight, experimental lightsport, amateur built aircraft.


By Jim "Gizmo" Cavanagh - April 1992

In the middle of Kansas, where they use chains for wind socks and prairie dog holes for runway centerlines, there is a great little company that builds a great little line of airplanes.

RANS is the company, and the family of airplanes includes the venerable S-4/5 Coyote, the first aircraft they produced, the S-6 Coyote II, the S-7 Courier, S-9 Chaos and its big brother, the S-10 Sakota, the lifting body style S11 Pursuit, and the new, very popular S-12 Airiale.

Randy Schlitter is the boss at RANS, which can be a contraction of Randy Schlitter, or a contraction in the possessive of a nickname, Ran's -- or a couple other things Randy told me that probably shouldn't be in print. He and his wife, Paula, have raised four sons and an airplane business since its inception in 1983, a business that has garnered no small amount of respect and recognition.

There's only one way to make it in the aviation business, and that is to produce a good product. RANS has shown that not only are their machines attractive to both the pilot and non-pilot eye, but they are stout and offer exceptional performance. This wasn't just a fluke.

Back when still a "young gun," Randy had that sort of adventurous spirit that had him out in the wild, ticking off the miles on his bike. Ever the sportsman, he biked to Canada and back, tresses snapping in the wind, enduring the grime for the time. While still a child, he designed airplanes, slapping a few together and running down the unending Kansas roads in the back of a pick up to see how they would do. He was in on the early hang gliding movement in the early '70s, and he designed a tri-wheeled land sailer, complete with sail, for cruising the flat plains of western Kansas. Another of his inventions, a recumbent bicycle, which seats the rider in an extremely laid-back position, was patented in 1973. He definitely knows his way around a tool box.

RANS S-10 Specifications:

Wing span:  24 ft
Length: 17 ft 10 in
Height: 4 ft 10 in
Cockpit width 37 in
Empty weight 420 lb
Gross weight 875 lbs
G-loads +6/-3
Engine: Rotax 912
Power 80 hp
Fuel 13 gal
Takeoff roll 300 ft (or less!)
Climb rate  1,300-1,500 fpm
Cruise 130 mph
Maximum speed (Vne) 150 mph
Service ceiling 16,000 ft
Stall with flaps 42 mph
Stall with flaps and power 28 mph

When the first Rotax engines became available, Randy designed and built the S-4 Coyote, a closed-cabin, high-wing, ultralight, which his company still sells. A two-seater, which isn't light enough for the ultralight definition, was also developed. Suddenly, he was in the aviation business. His reputation for constructing quality aircraft resulted in a steady sales history, which allowed him to continue to develop newer airplanes, until the product line is chock full of craft to fill about every slot that such light, inexpensive airplanes can fill.

I took the trip to Hays, KS, a few weeks ago. It is a town of about 20,000 or so honest, hard-working souls, who, from what I've learned in gas stations and restaurants, all have the best of the attributes we ascribe to small town people. Hays is a major watering hole for travelers driving 1-70 between Kansas City and Denver. It has a nice airport and perpetual crosswinds, which combine to produce good pilots if you live there and white knuckles if you don't.

I drove around for a good half hour trying to find the RANS shop. I had the address and knew the street numbers, but until I noticed a very small sign on a green building behind a Ford dealer, I was beginning to think I was in Russell, a small town a bit east of Hays. RANS has nice facilities at the airport, but these are used only for final assembly, maintenance and storage of their fleet of airplanes and as a base for demo rides.

John Schlitter is Randy's brother. There is a strong family resemblance, from the long curly hair to the mannerisms in speech and movement. John flies most of the demo flights, either at home base or at the airshows they attend. RANS charges $50 per flight to separate the tire kickers from serious customers, and for the bucks, you get a pretty good workout in whichever airplane you're interested in. I got lucky. The S-10 Sakota was parked outside and ready to go. More about this later.

RANS has about 50 souls working in the shop, which is really a series of shops connected with big doors. Just about everything that needs to be done to fabricate an airplane is done here. They weld up their own cabin structures and fittings, cut their own tubing, make their own sails and covers, and mold their own fuel tanks. Fiberglass work is done in the same building, the upstairs is stuffed with components, and it looks as if RANS could be totally self-sufficient for a few weeks if UPS or the trucking companies ever shut down.

Randy was suffering the effects of a flu bug that hit the Midwest the week I got there, and I've seen him looking better. I have friends that looks that good just before they closed the lid. But business must go on, and despite fever and a case of the blahs, he was there to show us around. The more he showed us, the better he looked, obviously proud of the shape of the shop and the efficiency of the workers. They were just finishing an airplane that was being shipped complete to Indonesia, ready to have the wings and a horizontal unfolded, tank topped, and Rotax cranked.

An S-12 Airiale was about half finished. A worker was installing the panel and wing root ribs, which, when pulled together with bolts, tightens the wing covering envelopes, which are colored, laced and ready to fly, as is the rest of the airplane when the crate is opened and the structure is completed.

We stopped for a moment to look over the S-11 Pursuit, the second prototype, which is nearly ready to sign off. This particular airplane is of major interest to Randy. The first one crashed with Randy at the controls, when fuel pressure was lost. He wasn't exactly unscathed. With a spinal compression injury and burns, he was lucky to make it out.

This is one of the unavoidable vagaries of the business. Until that problem, the thing was flying quite well, he reported, and the fact that it is a flying wing type aircraft, using a lifting body concept rather than popsicle-like wings, probably saved his life when it was low enough for ground effect to buoy it up.

This second edition is a real shock to the aviator's eye. It looks too big for the little engine. There are no airplane-like lines to compare it with, and the whole thing looks awkward in its unfinished state. All that fiberglass covering the structure is quite misleading. A close examination of the fuselage structure reveals a lot of though has gone into this airplane. In typical RANS fashion, the cabin section is a steel tubing cocoon that nearly surrounds the pilot. With skins attached, the twin-finned, wide-backed, bubble-canopied airplane looks like a fighter, and this is why there is so much interest in the project. With 65 horses, the thing should fly about 140 mph, and that is a hot trot!

Randy's not in a great hurry to finish the Pursuit, mainly because of the amount of other business he has to tend. Despite the poor economy, RANS is going strong, and projections look very good for 1992. When the S-11 is done, it's done. Though he will sell this model, it is actually a step towards the airplane he ultimately wants to build -- a four-seat, 200-mph, lifting-body airplane. But that's another story.
Continued on Picture Page

Story by Jim "Gizmo Cavanagh
Courtesy of James R "Zoom" Campbell

RANS S10 Sakota - experimental lightsport aircraft

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