The Rans S-7LS Courier, newly reworked for 2012 by its brainy, creative, airplane-loving designer Randy Schlitter, has been around for a number of years. As such, the classic taildragger enjoys a loyal following of owners who typically fly it for pure fun, whether around the local patch or in and out of some downright hair-raising backcountry turf.
Just a few minutes into an hour flight in the Courier recently with company pilot (and gal-next-door-type) Jana Morenz, it was slam-dunk obvious this is another super-refined Schlitter masterpiece.
First, this is a pilot's airplane. In Schlitter's ouevre, that means, first and foremost, impeccable handling, top-quality fit and finish, suitable performance for its type and affordable pricing. The Courier is a rear-wheeled bird, thus heir to a good STOL performance that pays homage to the great tandem-seat, fabric-covered club that includes the Piper Cub and Super Cub, Aeronca Champ and Taylorcraft, as well as the popular modern LSA versions from American Legend and Cub Crafters.
Schlitter heads up one of the most successful all-American aircraft companies ever. Over nearly 30 years, the prolific designer has produced roughly 5,000 airplanes—kits and ready-to-fly alike—that have from the beginning epitomized ingenuity, economy, form and function.
The S-7LS Courier is a handsome taildragger with clean, modern lines that serves up even more than meets the eye. More in this case triggers starts with a 70-degree roll rate and lighter stick forces than any other taildragger you're likely to find (other than a Pitts!). Courier is one lively bird.
Roll rates are so light and quick. And there's a balanced, clean feel in all three axes that makes you really want to turn it loose on the sky. It's nimble, sporty and plain fun to fly.
The handling comes by virtue of an update to the 2012 model: an aero servo aileron linkage system that delivers a pushrod-solid feel, though it's a traditional cable setup. (Rudder is also cable linked, while pitch is through a push-pull tube.)
In my too-brief flight with adorably pink-capped, pony-tailed Jana Morenz, I didn't achieve the deft coordination I know would come with a bit of practice—it's a spunky bird. Yet the S-7 is also so reassuring in its handling that I shot a good landing my first try without too much coaching in the nuances, and found it very easy to three-point on the grass—and this when I hadn't flown in a couple of months. Friendly bird.
I flew from the rear seat, with Ms. Morenz handling flaps from the front, even though the airplane is rated as solo from the front seat. I like apples-to-apples comparisons to the 1946 Piper Cub I'm used to flying.
Rans company pilot Jana Morenz takes LSA Editor James Lawrence for a demo flight in the S-7LS Courier, a tandem-seat fabric-covered taildragger. The LSA has a gross weight of the max 1,320 pounds and an increased fuel capacity of 26 gallons.
Easy As Pie
I dropped us into a right-hand pattern at a grass strip, took Morenz's suggestion to hold about 65 mph on final, then eased into a modest flare, and the Courier settled politely into that three-pointer without any neurotic undercurrents. Visibility was plenty good from the rear throughout landing and rollout, since the S-7 taxies at a less pronounced deck angle than a classic Cub, providing better visibility all around.
Ground handling is a breeze, too, thanks to the steerable, full-swivel tailwheel and dual toe brakes. And you can swing the airplane around real fast on one tire by locking up its Matco brake—great for maneuvering on tight backwoods strips.
New For 2012
Randy Schlitter gave the tried and true Courier quite a makeover. The upgraded S-7LS has greater range and payload to match its more responsive handling. Gross weight is now the full LSA-maximum 1,320 pounds.
Also new is increased fuel capacity: 26 gallons (up from 18), which is carried in two integral wing tanks (with latch-down, flush-fuel caps). The wing is built with one-piece stamped aluminum ribs now, replacing eight-piece, ultralight-style tubular ribs, and yielding lower weight with higher strength.
The aero servo linkage hinges to the ailerons a few inches aft of the (beefed-up) aileron leading edge spars. This neat trick brings in aerodynamic forces to help with the work of displacing ailerons, rather than relying on mechanical forces do it all. Simply described, when deflected, the aileron's leading edge encounters the relative wind above or below wing, which more cleanly diverts chord wise airflow down or up.
The aero servo approach has another benefit: no more aileron spades, which reduces drag and no doubt will save many craniums from walk-around head trauma. Also worth noting: differential aileron linkage (see sidebar), which reduces adverse yaw.
Modern technologies are brought to bear in shedding around 20 pounds of weight through the use of carbon fiber in the boot cowl, cowling, prop spinner and wing tips. And the large 6x00 main tires and eight-inch pneumatic tailwheel, along with robust spring steel main gear, help optimize the Courier for operations in and out of the weeds.
The standard-version Courier instrument panels come with steam gauges. Two other versions are available: the Deluxe Analog panel gets a Garmin SL 40, PM 3000 Intercom, Garmin Aero 560 GPS, VSI and Garmin GTX 330 Transponder, while the Deluxe Digital gets all of that, plus a Dynon D180 EFIS glass panel and smaller two-inch ASI and ALT gauges to fit it all in.
And if you like to build, you can save around $30,000 off the $87,000 ready-to-fly base price with the kit version, which takes 500 to 700 hours (Quickbuild version: 250 to 350 hours).
Back To The Sky
The Courier (named after Schlitter's enduring affection for another STOL bird, the legendary Helio Courier) curves happily through the sky but also showed me some impressive "Impossible Turn" performance.
Climbing at max power, we simulated takeoff engine failures by chopping throttle at full power on the 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS, establishing best glide speed (65 mph), then turning at a 35- to 45-degree bank through 180 and 270 degrees of heading to simulate a turn back to the airport.
The biggest altitude loss during a 180-degree turn was 180 feet. For a 270-degree turn, we lost just 270 feet. That kind of floaty efficiency is reassuring: Even if you double minimum altitude for a 270-degree airport turnback, that's still just over 500 feet...and we were well above 4,000 feet MSL.
What other praises to sing for this lovely taildragger? Takeoff: Give 'er the gun, the tail comes up pretty much on its own, and she's off in a surprising few seconds. Ergonomics: Plenty of room for big feet on both sets of pedals. The stick-top electric elevator trim is rigged for light, quick taps—just right. Visibility even from the rear seat is very good, with lots of window area. And the overhead skylight brings good forward view in steeper banks.
Headroom in the rear and front seats is about the same: I'm 5'11" and had a good four inches clearance below the airframe. A 6'6" pilot might feel a bit challenged here, but it's probably doable.
More on handling: Light, quick-response personality that prefers fingertip rather than ham-fist/lead-foot control inputs. Block the rudders to keep from overcontrolling, suggests Ms. Morenz. Once trimmed, she says 10-hour trips are easily done without undue fatigue: This docile bird doesn't need an autopilot.
Stalls? Typically LSA benign: There are no nasty wingovers or other silliness, and they're preceded by gentle burbled warnings around 40 mph indicated. Courier feels inherently forgiving.
And then there's flying with the windows open, one side or both. So, as we motor back to the airport, I'm happy to be alive and breathe in the great blue sky, enjoy Jana Morenz's pink-hatted pony-tail dance in front of me, and feel snug as a bug in the most excellent Rans S-7 Courier, an airplane any pilot who loves sheer flying will enjoy on the very first date.
Taming Adverse Yaw
|What is adverse yaw, and why is it something designers try to minimize in their aircraft?
Making a turn, let's say to the left, requires banking the wings by moving the left aileron upward and the right aileron downward. The left aileron deflects air upward, pushing the wing down. The right aileron does the opposite by pushing air down and raising the wing.
Here's the aerodynamic challenge: When that right aileron drops downward, it also increases lift, which induces more drag than the other left aileron. That increased drag tends to tug the right wing backward or counter to the direction of the left turn. That's why airplanes have a rudder: to coordinate turns by keeping that nose from moving right in a left turn. The same phenomenon, of course, occurs in a right turn. Crafty designers decades ago found a neat way to partially minimize adverse yaw by rigging ailerons differentially— arranging linkages mechanically so ailerons move more in one direction than the other—with the greater deflection always being upward. In other words, in our left turn, the left aileron goes up more than the right aileron goes down. Likewise, in a right turn, the right aileron goes up more, and the left one goes down less. And it works, because when the greater lift-producing (and drag-inducing) aileron is prevented from creating as much drag, it won't pull the wing backward as strongly.