One of the most celebrated names in light aviation is Rans, a company name that both hinges on and reflects its designer and company boss, Randy Schlitter.
Recently this now-familiar producer celebrated 35 years since the initial flight of its first single-seat aircraft.
When the company first flew its S3 Coyote I three and a half decades ago, most observers had no idea where the Kansas company was headed…or if it would even last.
For that matter, the company that showed at SUN ‘n FUN back in the mid-1980s consisted of one fellow and his interesting little Part 103 ultralight vehicle. Most show goers probably never even considered this modest entry would lead to one of the most important companies in the light aircraft space.
Very likely Randy himself didn’t know, though he has proven a shrewd entrepreneur and prolific developer for many years, driven by that fire burning in his belly.
Since I witnessed Randy Schlitter’s first appearance at SUN ‘n FUN, two facts have been proven. It shows we’ve each worked in the light aircraft space for a long time, and Randy has become one of the most successful kit aircraft producers in the world. His aircraft fly in countries around the globe.
Like many observers, I’ve seen many new companies arrive on the scene. Most develop one airplane and then make modifications to offer a new model. That’s a fair achievement and is more than most of us will do.
However, it appears Randy simply cannot stop creating brand new designs.
That S-3 Coyote I led to a series of S-series airplanes, from the S4-5-6 Coyotes to the S-7 Courier to the S-9 Chaos and S-10 Sakota shoulder wing aerobatic models (a single and a two seater) to the S-12 and S-14 Airailes to the S-16 Shekari to the S-17 Stinger and S-18 ultralight-style models to the S-19 low wing, all-metal Venterra to the S-20 Raven and finally, the company’s newest — just arriving for the 2018 show circuit — the S-21 Outbound.
A couple missing numbers were not skipped. They simply didn’t continue to production. For example, the S-11 Pursuit and the S-15 Pursuit II were experiments with the lifting body shape.
Are you exhausted merely reading the long list of Rans models? Imagine the effort of creating that many models, much less producing them and supporting builders of those constructed as kits, which accounts for most of them.
Randy emphatically did not merely make modest modifications to one airplane in designing the others. While they share some characteristics, the Coyote line is much different from the Courier-Raven-Outbound line, which again are quite different from the Shekari and Venterra, while none of these is the same as the Airailes or Stingers. The Pursuits are, again, something very different.
Amazingly, not only did Randy lead his team through that dizzying production of airplanes, he also ran a bicycle company since the 1970s, though that was sold in recent years. His 34 models (!) of specialty bikes include recumbent styles. I ride one of them every single day.
Whew! That man is one busy designer.
Although he sold the bicycle company, many aviators will agree with me when say that I am exceptionally pleased this company and its one-of-a-kind owner continue to pursue light aviation.
But as we celebrate this milestone anniversary, let’s return to that very first public offering, the S-3 Coyote I.
In Randy’s own words from his Facebook page (where he is quite prolific) on March 17, 2018, “This Saturday is the 35th anniversary of the first flight of the Rans Coyote I ultralight.” He sagely added, “This craft launched Rans into the world of kit and certified planes.”
“I still fly ole number 1 and it humbles me to do so,” he continued. “In fact we posted a video showing off this old bird. It flies better today than back in ’83.”
The modern Coyote Rans continues to sell well today after three and a half decades. In fact, even after well-received models of different design, the Coyote series is the best selling of all Rans aircraft. That 35-year-old design triggered quite a long and profitable run that gave pleasure to a large flock of pilots. One key factor is the low cost of a Coyote II.
“I am really thankful for such a long and successful career,” Randy wrote, “and for all the wonderful friends we have met along the way. As always, fly safe, have a blast!”
With more than 4,000 Rans aircraft flying, I’d say Randy has already delivered plenty for pilots to enjoy! He has every reason to be proud of what he has achieved over 35 years in light aviation.
Congratulations, Randy and Team Rans!
The Many Models of Rans Design
Over the years, Rans has offered a wide range of airplane models that are not all merely a modification of an earlier design. Several years ago, to remain efficient, the Kansas company focused on five of its best and offers them in ready-to-fly configuration.
These and additional models can also be built as kits, though some models — S-6S Coyote II, S-12XK Airaile, S-9 Chaos, S-10 Sakota, and S-18 Stinger — may experience longer delivery times than those listed below.
S-6ES Coyote II
Useful Load: 645 poundsFuel: 18 gallons
Cruise: 110 mph
Useful Load: 588 pounds
Fuel: 26 gallons
Cruise: 110 mph
Useful Load: 500 pounds
Fuel: 24 Gallons
Cruise: 136 mph
Useful Load: 580 pounds
Fuel: 26 Gallons
Take Off: 300′
Cruise: 112 mph
Useful Load: 815 pounds
Fuel: 40 Gallons
Takeoff: To Be Determined
Cruise: 155 mph, expected
Regarding his vision for the news S-21 Outbound, Randy Schlitter said, “The FAA is planning to remove the gross weight limitation on Light-Sport Aircraft. Provided the airframe has the beef and power to go to a higher gross you will see the Sport class of planes become much more useful. The Outbound is ready either way, with the empty weight at or under other SLSAs using the Titan engine …we see this as a win-win.”