Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rans Coyote II S-6LS: The Proud And The Playful

Highly refined, quick and lively, light and strong: What’s not to like?

In American Indian lore, the coyote is a mythic totem, known variously as the prairie wolf, God's dog and the trickster. The coyote was respected for its intelligence, resourcefulness and adaptability. As an airplane, the Rans Aircraft Coyote II seems aptly named by making the most of its straightforward aerodynamic pedigree: It's lean, attractive, playful, and handles the elements athletically and with minimal fuss.

A Long Pedigree

"Just as a bit of trivia," Rans Aircraft's eclectic founder and head honcho Randy Schlitter says, "if we lined up wingtip to wingtip the 4,500 airplanes Rans has sold since the company began, it would stretch more than 25 miles."

Randy likes to conjure abstract visuals like that. His artist/engineer/
entrepreneur mind has brought forth, since 1983, a virtual air force of interesting aircraft, including a lifting body, ultralights that can handle brisk Kansas winds, full-on lightweight aerobats and both production and kit versions of popular models such as the current S-6LS and S-7LS high-wings and S-19LS all-aluminum low-winger.

A Randy Schlitter-designed airplane is a pilot's delight. It's impeccably hand-constructed and can be counted on for inventive design implementations in the service of performance and pilot contentment. The Coyote II S-6LS in particular is the classic Rans design: fundamentally functional, cute and spirited, but always in faithful service of number one—the pilot.
I had the pleasure of flying the ELS version a few months ago when it was briefly offered as a $63,000 S-LSA, which put it head to head against other budget-focused LSA.

I had thought the Coyote, with its slip-cover frame that carries the light and airy look of the ultralight breed, would feel similar to those "budget" birds. But that was a merely skin-deep assumption.

Randy has certainly made good use of that iconic bolt-together tube-style construction, but the Coyote is, by no means, an "ultralighty" airplane: It's responsive yet stable; and feels tight, balanced and solid yet is thoroughly enjoyable to fly around the local patch. Poking through some chop, pulling in a couple notches of flaps to curve down into a short-field landing or trimming up for a nice, longish cruise, it behaves like a "real" airplane—with no hidden vulnerabilities or nasty surprises in its highly evolved construction and flying personality.

The Good Doggie

Coyote began life 28 years ago as a single-place, sewn Dacron-covered, 28 hp ultralight. In continuously refined production as an experimental two-seat kit since 1989, the official S-LSA version was ASTM certified in 2008.

Coyote has come a long, long way through a tuning process responsive to customer input—and Randy Schlitter's tirelessly creative brain. Some people are born to think natively outside the box. Far fewer also have the business acumen to produce excellent products and successfully pilot their company through major economic recessions—and in the aviation industry, yet!

All Rans airplanes are completely American made. More than 2,000 iterations of the venerable Coyote design have gone out to 50 countries, including Japan and Great Britain. There are specific reasons for success across national borders and a variety of pilot preferences. At the top of the S-6LS's brag list are a no-nonsense, fun-flying personality; economical operating cost and the hybrid airframe construction that melds a welded chrome-moly-steel passenger cage with an aluminum tube tail. The wings also conjoin beefy tube spars with metal ribs. The airplane is covered the tried-and-true way: with dope and fabric. The stabilized Dacron envelope, clear coated for a surprisingly beautiful, airtight finish, can still be had in the S-6ES kit version. Simply put, the Coyote II has quietly become one of the most popular single-engine sport airplanes ever made.


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