Let’s Talk Airplanes – The Rans S6ES

I recently received this comment on post to this blog:

“We became acquainted on BCP and I’ve always kinda looked forward to seeing your posts. A parachute, really? Ha! Just kidding. When I took the 120 hour LSRM course at Rainbow aviation I got signed off to do work and annuals on those.

But that’s not the point. I broke my back in late January and am now starting to get around a little better. Life is moving on. I don’t want to be a builder. I bought a CH-701 kit and have done nothing in about 3 years. I want to start flying again before I croak or lose my mind. So, I can’t even get in a Cub type and the wife won’t stand for a tandem anyway. After lots of thought, I think I need an S-6 of some sort. You of course are the resource that comes to mind. I need to sell my 701 parts and half a dozen guitars first probably but I think I can swing $40K or so.

Sails? Conventional covering? ES? ELS? S? What? I don’t know anything. Like Sargent Shultz. It would be nice to find one registered ELSA so I can do all the work and sign offs but finding an A&P is not impossible.”

Excellent questions.

The Rans S6 is one of the bargains in aviation today.  You can still buy a brand new one from the factory for far less than $100K.  You can build one for less than $50K.  You can buy one used for less than $40K.  They are good, honest flying airplanes.  They have Cub like performance and are as docile as a Cessna.  Stalls are straighforward.  The S6 is not prone to wing drop on either side, just a slow shudder and straight over the nose.  The wings also fold on these units if you’re into that sort of thing.  I NEVER folded my wings but that option is there for those who desire it.  The visibilty out of the cockpit is STUNNING.  You have a large windscreen, low panel, the roof is a skylight, and the doors are all clear Lexan so if you don’t paint the bottoms of the doors (as many do) you have great visibilty to the side and down.  The controls are positioned very comfortably and are right where you would expect them to be.  A big plus in my book was having the flap handle right next to me.  The Johnson bar was easy to reach and deply or stow quickly.  No need to bury your face in the instrument panel just to reach the flap bar like on the older Cessnas.

However, there are a few things you need to consider when buying or building one.

  • What engine?

Rotax 912S. 100 HP.  Easy decision.  While the plane will fly admirably on the 80HP Rotax 912, the extra 20 ponies the 912S gives you are well worth it.  You will have the Cub like performance you are hoping for which can get you out of a lot of bad situations.

  • Dacron or regular aircraft fabric

I wouldn’t be afraid of either one.  Dacron is generally tougher than standard aircraft fabric, and easier to put it.  But it is transluscent, you can’t see the underlying structure of the aircraft but light will shine through Dacron.  It has a somewhat shorter lifespan that traditional covering but can last every bit as long if the aircraft is hangared.  I never had any problems with my dacron coverings but it does make the aircraft look “ultra-lighty” and some guys don’t like that.  The benefit to using regular airraft covering is that you can paint it any color you like where the Dacron color choices and striping is limited.  The drawback to regular fabric is… you have to paint it.

  • Nosewheel or tailwheel

Ah, this debate shall rage throughout the ages.  I have only ever owned tailwheel aircraft because I enjoy the challenge that comes from flying them (or should I say, taxiing them, taking off, and landing them.)   Tailwheels just look like they belong off-airport and they work very well off-airport.  I love tailwheel aircraft.  Having said that I would recommend a nosewheel for a couple fo reason.  First, the nosewheels on these airplanes are built STOUT.  You’ll be able to handle any sort of off-airport work you want (except perhaps for the ribbing you’ll get from the tailwheel pilots).  But you’ll be able to land anywhere they will.   Second, resale value.  When I was selling my airplane I had several callers say “no thank you” when they found out it was a tailwheel.  Give these airplanes can be flown in the light sport category you’ll have much better resale value when it does come time to trade up, down, or sideways on a different airplane.

So those are my impressions from building and 5 years of flying my Rans S6ES.  If you have questions, let’s hear them!  I love talking airplanes.

And to the gentleman who posed the original question, I’ll give you a call. 🙂

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