Originally published April 1992
During the summer of '90 I happened to be in the mood for flying and was without a good set of wings. The August issue of Hot Kits & Homebuilts had a very interesting article on the RANS S-10 Sakota and I was hooked. Several other kits like the Glasair and Lancair had already been ruled out in previous budgetary discussions with my finance minister and wife as being too expensive. Several others like the Long EZ and other plans built planes were eliminated due to the amount of time required (some were out of the question due to terminal ugliness too). The RANS factory sent a very well illustrated catalog of their products and the names of several S-10 builders. In November, I flew with Charles Miller in his S-10, It was very responsive and a bit pitch sensitive but I had no problem getting used to it within about 5 minutes of PIO's. Charles had very positive comments about the RANS people and the airplane itself and so did every other builder I talked with. I was soon convinced that this plane was clearly superior to the factory built planes that I could afford. I also flew the Avid Flyer and the Kitfox but each had been outclassed (in my opinion) by the S-10.
I sent a check to RANS in Jan 1991 and a few days later I was told that I could expect delivery about the middle of February. My plane with the Rotax 582 engine, acro package, electric starter, long range tanks and streamlined footsteps came to $13,715. The kit is very complete... even wheels, tires, brakes, covering material, and plenty of raw materials are included. The things the builder must add are instruments, radio, paint and about 450 hours of skinned knuckles and sore muscles.
A very large crate appeared in my garage on 15 Feb. The box was about 4'x 4'x 14' and weighed about 450 lbs. I could hardly wait to tear into it and start building, but it had to wait due to darkness and other commitments. The shop had to be better organized and better lit. I had no idea that this thing would take so much room! The plywood from the crate was transformed into shelves and then I began the dreaded parts inventory (all 16 pages of it). The AN hardware was nicely packaged in little baggies which were stapled to a 4'x 5' sheet of plywood on a convenient wall. When it came to the pop rivets, I just hoped that the number was close because I wasn't about to count out over 700 of the assorted sizes. Most of the parts and pieces had their identity marked on them with black marker from the factory although there were some "mystery" pieces. The UNI-HORN was the most puzzling until the factory told me that they were the aileron horns but were common to several RANS aircraft and were considered universal--simple huh? The inventory took most of two days because I was pulling the stuff out of the crate, checking it off the list, and putting it away too! Some of the parts were back ordered and only a couple of bolts were missing. I also opened the box for the Rotax and was shocked to see it was only the size of a sewing machine. Once the parts were ID'd and segregated I discovered that I needed more work space. I had already built a 6' work bench but the drill press, belt sander, and several parts bins didn't leave much room for work. Off to Home Club again for another work bench, some saw horses, a machinists vise, and a pair of 48 inch fluorescent lights.
In very short order I had de-burred most of the parts for the wing and was ready to screw up...I mean assemble...something simple. The canopy bows and turtledeck formers and stringers seemed simple enough so I dove in. The buttons on the aft former went on very nicely and the front former came out perfect. Then I realized that one of the rivets for the joint in the aft bow was on the wrong side--my first introduction to the love-hate relationship an airplane kit often produces. The wings were ready to accept the fuel system after about 30 hours and then I started on the fuselage priming. About 80 hours later I decided that an air brush was not the correct tool for the job of priming the tubes, oh well! The fuel system needed some fittings installed and then the tanks were clamped into the wings. I couldn't believe that I was getting so much done with so little time spent. The wing leading edge wrap was a bit of a challenge and I'm glad I had an extra pair of hands available for the task. The first one went on so easy that I probably got over confident and almost messed the other one up. The sheet of aluminum drooped about mid-span and there were some big wrinkles developing between the ribs. Luckily I was able to pull the whole thing apart without destroying anything. The wing struts were the biggest challenge and I ended up sending away for a replacement leading edge strut after the bolt hole ovaled. I now have about 250 hours in the plane and the wings have been on it, the control system is in, and the fuel system is ready for finish plumbing. Sometimes I feel guilty about how little time I have invested in this project but then I look at how little there is to do yet and start to laugh!