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Rans S21 Outbound build French Island. Nic and Mike. Start date 3rd May 2022. Finish date 1st February 2023. Target $ spend to be determined.

Mike Gearon

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I don’t know if anyone saw the Grand Designs episode 12 Season 7. Barge house. Google play or iTunes. Link here to google play. Also regularly cycles on Foxtel and sometimes on ABC/ BBC. Europe as well. I get interested contacts from Europe time to time.


The heading of this build blog provides a bit of Grand Designs expected finish date and budget to potentially blow through. I’m a great admirer of Mark Kyle’s build blogs. Tells it how it is. I’ll do this joint blog while respecting Nic my fellow builder and fellow French island land/ runway owners right to not look stupid in public. That train left the station a long time ago for me. I balance it with occasional bright moments. Nic is exceptional. Incredible momentum that built his international business over the last few decades. I see that momentum can be directed at the build while we still try and enjoy the process at a steady safe pace. I’m in USA June and July and we haven’t decided if Nic wants to build while I’m away. I don’t mind if so.

Nic and I met some 6 months ago. I’d just returned from the usual USA yearly trip and he’d just moved to French island. We are both recently retired and not very good at being retired. The build is a great plan to keep us both just busy enough to enjoy life. At least that’s the current plan.

I’ll bring us up to date with pics from the last 12 months that get us to today. I’ll then update today based on Nic flying to Tyabb for tools that arrived at his factory. I fly to Tooradin to get the clecos I left in the car. This afternoon we hope to complete the rudder. The rudder gets you going for the rest of the build or you reorder because you stuffed it up. I saw a reorder while at OSH Kosh in 2021 so we’ll aware. I also saw 3 rudders being built at OSH Kosh. We will see how it goes today when the fog clears and we can fly. Pic now of the fog. 

Pic and videos from the meet up at Rans factory Kansas mid 2021. Only a few hours drive south of the Nebraska home we just sold so easy trip.

pic. Shelly and I in her office. She is Wonder Woman!  Very patient and juggles an awful lot.


Pic; Randy in the factory. Interviewing potential welders. I did a trial weld and didn’t pass muster. No job for me. 


Video; . Randy in the aircraft. I’d like to fly 25% as well. Randy makes it effortless. Landing at Rans runway 30 degrees to the “crooked runway” as he termed it and we just straightened up and tail wheel perfect landing. As a newly endorsed tailwheel pilot I saw the skill!


Fog today…..I suggested I meet oldest daughter to fly today when fog clears. She won’t. Friday 13th! . I certainly won’t push it because we lost mum recently. I’ll fly and told my girls I’ll wear my luck pants so it’ll be okay. Response…that’ll be included in the eulogy 😀








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OSH Kosh 2021.


Flying in with an army Blackhawk instructor pilot was awesome. “Rock your wings” from controller then we were one of the every 8-10 seconds landing at the busiest airport in the world. 

I plan to fly in Osh Kosh 2022. Maybe! Wouldn’t think about it without having experienced it. “Land on the orange circle” 30 page notam to learn!


Rudder build with the super helpful nice guy Eddie from Rans. 

Flying home to Nebraska with my CFI in a Cherokee. IFR the last few hours was awesome experience. 












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Posted (edited)

Pickup of the frame kit from Tooradin. Very lucky to get the back on the barge to French Island with a blown engine and the barge limped in on last run until repaired.


Visiting another S21 builder. Big assist on how to unpack and plenty of build tips.


Fabricating a flat table. We’d like to have thick MDF but no barge so cement sheet has to do. It’s within .5 degree and we use 100x50 aluminium and shims for final critical levelling of parts. Rudder underway and we were waiting on clecos then waiting on 3.3mm drill bits. Flew today in some pretty blustery conditions to Tyabb. Yesterday battled the fog. Ended up having to go to Port Phillip bay then come back around the coast under the cloud into western port bay to Tooradin. Quite a detour. IFR would have been a quick trip in.

Rudder finish tomorrow morning and hopefully it’s perfect and we don’t start with a reorder and repeat! Not keen on going to USA with the kit build going on but family and other commitments in USA.








Edited by Mike Gearon
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I guess I’ll put a bit of current stuff with the progress to now. Yesterday we were removing a tree where the hangar is going for Kit build. We will build in my shed until the hangar is complete then move. Chain sawing trees down is definitely more risky than flying! Biggest risk is the widow maker branch above your head. Later we put the bucket above chain saw operator to both protect the saw operator from a stray branch and no chance of the tree coming that way. Almost boringly safe!


On the topic of exciting moments flying to Maryborough to meet the UL520t Australian dealer Les. You can see VFR corridor. I’ve blanked the other aircrafts altitude because it may or may not have been way closer to me than he should and obviously on wrong side of corridor. Move to right of corridor for oncoming aircraft. It says so on the map!

1500ft southbound, 2500ft northbound as I was. I moved left because of that aircraft being off to wrong side and in the wrong place. ATSB in and avplan always on. monitoring Center and they didn’t call eithe of us so it must have been okay….

We have ordered the 520t. 40% deposit 41,500 euro. Les is great to deal with. Either order or fly into Maryborough as I did and he can take you through the history of UL engines. Les has represented them for 14 years. One of their oldest dealers. As Les mentioned you can go through the history of the engines via the service bulletins. With a history as inventor I definitely don’t want to be an early adopter. Great to see history. 




The turbo is a recent development. It is also a very conservative addition. Horsepower kept down to 220hp at 2700rpm. The engines normally run out to 3300rpm. It is more normaliser than turbo. It has certainty in being a well established turbo. We run standard 2700rpm prop in place of a prop especially made for 3300rpm 


garrett link here.











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8 hours ago, rodgerc said:

Ist February 2023…..😳🤔😂😂😂😂😂😂😂🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

This at least looks fast….😀😀😀


Monday/ tomorrow morning we finish the rudder. Nic had to go home for weekend. Happy wife, happy life.

Hoping rudder is straight and nice as first finished part. 



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10 hours ago, onetrack said:

I hope you blokes don't do the build on the same level as your movies! - upside down!

Hey Onetrack. I’ve shared your runway build insights with Nic. All that knowledge is very valuable. Note….I can’t make the clip play upside down. Tried chrome and safari. 


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Mike, I recall this upside-down movie problem from an earlier time, it's related to programming conflict between Apple and MS products. I don't use any Apple IT products, I use Windows 7 Pro and Chrome with WIndows Media Player. I haven't got Quicktime installed on any of my equipment.


From another site -

"If you record using an iPhone with the volume buttons pointed at the ceiling, the resulting video plays upside-down in Windows Media Player. QuickTime is smart enough to correct and rotate automatically."

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We have nearly all the tools now. Shipped from Aircraft Spruce and Henchman. Nic and I hope to  have the rudder, vertical and horizontal stabiliser finished this week. Nic will work on the wings and fueselage while I’m in USA. 

Really enjoying the process and I understand serial builders now. I guess having a well sorted kit helps. We are’nt battling crappy instructions, missing bits and/ or holes in the wrong spots. 

Time off build tomorrow flying to Tyabb for the final tools from USA. Example today was the fluting tool. I never even knew what a fluting tool was until lunchtime today. Nic in the Where’s Wally beanie was the best fluter. Nice touch on just the right amount of crimping to have straight/ flat parts. 


Daughter 1 yesterday at Coldstream where I picked her up. First flight in the Pipistrel and unimpressed with cockpit space. She’s 6ft and I think the S21 will be more her style. 






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Last build day before I fly to USA today. Nic and I have an ambitious plan to build the horizontal stabiliser. I prepped on my own last night and it was a lonely old business for 3 hours getting all the bits sorted and appropriate areas (metal to metal) primed.   Very used to working with Nic and we make a good team. The bastard won’t come to OSH KOSH though. 😀 He’s flown remote worldwide locations for 20 years and I do get it. Retirement can’t involve international travel. This year! 2023 might be a new story.


Handy tips so far.

1. Have an experienced builder visit. I picked Rob up in the Nynja and we flew with some pretty awful crosswinds. Some 10kn beyind Nynja max and speed sorted it nicely. Couldn’t plan a calm day visit because of the USA coming trip.

Pic below. Rob and Nic inspecting the vertical stabiliser. Rob was great value and I think it was mutual and he returned with renewed enthusiasm. That’s definitely a lot of what this is all about. We have an Australian, New Zealand and worldwide community of fellow builders. We can build, fly and visit as time goes on. Remote bush locations including our French Island runways easily sorted in the S21. 

2. A3 folders. Rans has text, parts and figures. Parts and figures way better in A3. Rhythm is read the text, open parts and tick off each item, follow text, parts and figures along with a good dose of YouTube.  Clear direct is our favourite and combined with a few other builders for occasional detail.


3. Have all the tools. Edge former, fluting tool, reamer etc. There are a lot! Impossible to move forward without them.


4. Buckets for the rivets. Clearly mark the rivet containers and rivet discipline. A rivet can’t be left on the table. It’s in or in the correct bucket.


5. Inspection. We thoroughly inspect completed work. Found one proud rivet on vert stab and redid.


6. You have to assemble and drill a number of times then disassemble and deburr. Nobody likes rework. It’s just how it goes. Payoff on completion and it looks exactly right.








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