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Thu, May 11, 2006

RANS: Light Sport Aircraft Are The Future

Trims Product Line, Boosts Production, Intros S-19

RANS, which has shipped over 4,000 aircraft kits (and God knows how many recumbent bicycles) from its plant, is radically reorganizing that plant -- in ways that may affect you, if you're a customer or planning to be one. There are three changes to consider.

First, they're trimming the product line, effective June 1. On that date, no more orders will be taken for most of what had been the widest-ranging product line in the industry. Specifically, the S-4/5, S-9, S-10, S-12S, S-14, S-16, S-17, and S-18 all belong to history. If you want one, order it now... after June 1, they won't be making 'em, although they'll still sell products they have in stock for however long it takes to sell 'em out.

The original list also included the S-12XL, too, but because buyers begged... and over 1,000 S-12s have been shipped... RANS reconsidered. "We received enough comments and requests to make a turn about in this decision. Thanks to all who offered opinions and support," the company's website now says, where the announcement of curtains for the S-12 among others sat just last week.

But, what about support, you ask? Not to worry, say company reps. "These planes are very much a part of our history," they write. "Support, both technical and parts, will continue for all models. As stocks are depleted, parts will be fabricated upon demand." For how long? For "a considerable time," they say. Based on the reputation of the company, we'd say not to worry.

Isn't this most of the product line? Why would they do that? The answer is: to get serious about the company's most popular products: the S-7 LS SLSA, and the S-6ES and S-6S, S-7S, and S-12XL kits. "Streamline the Line!" came the word from boss Randy Schlitter (below), and streamline the line they did. A shorter product line allows a more disciplined and rapid production cycle, not to mention rationalizing what had to be enormous inventory stocks.

The discontinued machines date from as long ago as December, 1983 (the S-4) to just a few years back. The remaining three models are the latest version of the Courier and Coyote, which also stem from the 1980s, and the more recent (1990) S-12 Airaile. (While the S-12S version was discontinued, you will still be able to option an S-12XL, which normally comes with pre-sewn Dacron skins, with conventional fabric/dope covering -- a de facto S-12S). 

Second, RANS wants you to put a Rotax 912 series engine in your RANS aircraft. The light S-12XL will still be available with the 503 or 582, but the S-6 won't be. These engines "demonstrate a better outcome over time. This is true for any model, and especially true if you fly over fifty hours per year," the company says.

Third -- and this is big enough news that we will cover it separately -- RANS is introducing the S-19 (below), a new low-wing design that pilots can fly under Light Sport privileges, and that introduces a new form of construction for the RANS line: aluminum riveted semi-monocoque.

Was there a little foreshadowing of this decision at Lakeland? Well, you do the math. The company only displayed S-6 and S-7 models with Rotax 4-stroke engines. We saw that at the time, but didn't see it for the whack upside the head with a clue stick that it was. Hmmmm.

RANS clearly remains proud of all their designs. You can seem them all up to last year on the RANS Timeline (the S-19 is too new to show up... yet).

FMI: www.rans.com

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