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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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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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  • 3 weeks later...

I’m in USA doing IFR training in stinking hot Phoenix and Nic is back in Australian cold soldiering on with the build. 

We jointly completed most of the back end. Nic has since completed ailerons and moving onto wings. We have Aerosport carbon dash and parts ordered for inclusion with August 20’ container to Australia with my Pipistrel tail dragger. I sold this so many times and it fell through that I’m now going to cut its 50ft wings down to 31ft and big bore the engine. Being done by an expert in New Mexico and I’m the test pilot and will help. I’ll just fly it out to a speed that is just below flutter and see if anything breaks off. 

UL Power USA is supplying UL FWF and I’ll meet Ray at OSH Kosh to take delivery of engine mount with hopefully tricycle option. Note… Rans changed the design to include Tricycle mount incorporated in engine mount. Makes sense. I may receive as tail wheel only. Ray did say many people want to order with the tricycle either because of prohibitive TD insurance. Say up to 12k USD due to all the crazy STOL stuff people do an apparently aren’t very good at!


Or, as in our case we build tail wheel and have our own option to change or resale value advantage. 

Ray will have the UL520 cowling as well. There have been delays on this. If neither are ready for OSH Kosh delivery we just wait until they are. Ideally we pick them up and wife and I drive them back to Nebraska hangar or Kansas Rans factory and throw in with other stuff. 

pics here. Nic is going great and occasionally gets a hand such as rolling from our retired airforce A&P.


I believe we are getting the trim tab done again at the factory and shipped complete. Nic has been keeping the one we built in “the corner of shame”


I think our completion date is possible as long as the container ships in August/ September. I’m torn between enjoying? IFR training and glider flying and wanting to be back there building. Counting down. We plan to leave early August back to Oz.


That D is the wonderful RANS wing leading edge. Great innovation. Makes it very difficult to stuff up. Hopefully. 








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Here’s Mike Starkey and his wife’s completed build with an amazing paint job. I was following their build last year in an American flying magazine. Lots of clues on electrics and I was worried about these more than anything else. Nic being an electronics guy fixes all this!


Might borrow some of this great airbrush concept with a koala island theme as long as the koala has goggles and a machine gun. (Cuddly cute koala isn’t going to work)

Nic is onto the wings… D leading edge now has light hole cut and we air freighted the lens and lights.




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I know it’s early days to be talking paint… still, this is likely paint scheme. 


First pic is another S21 mural scene. Pretty cool.


Reality is we likely will  be the red, white and gray of the S21 pictured with the Rans green substituted for red. Notice the VH reg on that aircraft. Early Aussie build.






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  • 2 weeks later...

A couple of updates.


1. Nic is charging ahead while I’m in USA. I’m IFR training and Nic continues building. Wing getting to skin stage. I think the fuselage will be finished before I get back in August as well! Nic is a committed hard charger in whatever endeavour he undertakes.


2. I’ve purchased a 2nd S21 kit. It’s 1 of the 5 that came to Australia recently. The owner has overseas commitments and no time to build. I’m going to discuss with Nic if we finish the first S21 then build a second. I do recall him saying “just the one kit” I think it’s an addictive enterprise. We will see. I may have a TD kit for sale…. Seeing as there is a 12 month and more wait for kits and this is instantaneous S21 kit build in Australia gratification I’m not too fussed on current ownership.

3. Garmin or Dynon. I was fixated on Garmin because of the IFR training. Dynon does look to be a sensible bang for buck option. Can’t fly it IFR obviously. I’m not sure if home build with certified instruments allowed to fly IFR approaches. Whatever, not worth the cost or staying IFR current. It’s a big commitment. I’m just doing to increase skill set and apparently instrument rated pilots have a lower risk and especially after 350 hours. I’m pushing both now. 




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Well, this was a super exciting start to my USA day. Nic has the inspector coming out prior to wing skins being completed. Nic being meticulous has the rivets dipped in paint before application. A laborious extra step and we do appreciate input from a fellow builder who rebuilt a very old aircraft. Corrosion between metal parts and under rivet heads is a thing. We were already painting surfaces that will be in contact.






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Also good news…. Nic has agreed to build a second S21. I’d not have blamed him one bit if he’d said what the hell! So, I’m on the orders now for round 2…

Aerosport products… ordered a 2nd set of all their S21 goodies except wing tips.


Here is a dash comparison with carbon fibre dash from https://www.aerosportproducts.com/product/s-21-carbon-fiber-panel/ Great care has been taken in the layout. It’s both beautiful and economy of eye movement across displays with circuit breakers down low.


 I designed dash concepts for quite a while and as soon as I saw that carbon dash from,Aerosport and the beautiful switches (these can be custom named) I threw my concepts out. No ego involved. If somebody else can do better I’m happy to pay them.


AVIONICS. Not ordered at all just yet.


We have a local quote of some 55k for the Garmin as you see installed in the carbon dash S21 with autopilot. This is not certified avionics. Experimental. Seems high. We will explore the Dynon equivalent. Including the G5 equivalent backup and autopilot I think it’s around 30k AUD without install. 



Ordered a 2nd 520t 220hp turbo from Les. Ordered a 2nd FWF kit inc tricycle option and the modified cowling from UL USA. Ordered 2nd tricycle wheel from Rans. While I favour the tail wheel there is an insurance component to tail/ tricycle that’s prohibitive and probably going to get worse. The tricycle tundra tyres also for me personally as a better cool factor than the TD. There is a statistically greater chance we won’t won’t have to repair a tricycle S21. I’m confident in tail. I’ve landed a twitchy Pipistrel TD 50ft wing dozens of times. It’s long flights and tired is my concern and that period when the aircraft has slowed and control,surfaces nit as responsive and I’m also slow. We will see.




I’ve agreed we should go Airmaster CSU. My experience with a rotax 100hp CSU in a LSA that could easily have been fixed prop and the 220hp in a GA are quite different. 



Paint. I’ll discuss at OSH Kosh with various suppliers. I know the Stuart systems rep  pretty well. Ex controller and GA pilot and it’s a great product. https://stewartsystems.aero/metal-composite/ ….. more research.








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Wings complete. Nic is working on fuselage. I think I’ll be coming back to a complete aircraft. Means we can get working the second one as well as starting on the finishing. I know when you lock a house up you’re only at the half way point. Aircraft… I’m guessing you are not half way!

Rans just put this pic up of one of their factory built. A cool colour scheme in Corvette red. The tricycle looks better than tail wheel imo. I’m leaning tricycle.


Avionics. I was temporarily excited by GRT. They are definitely up and comers minus maps problems outside USA. It’s Dynon or Garmin. I lean Garmin and no doubt influenced by IFR training. At 25 hours that’s making more sense and I absolutely get you end up a better pilot. It’s just bloody difficult!







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42 minutes ago, Mike Gearon said:

Wings complete. Nic is working on fuselage. I think I’ll be coming back to a complete aircraft. Means we can get working the second one as well as starting on the finishing. I know when you lock a house up you’re only at the half way point. Aircraft… I’m guessing you are not half way!

Rans just put this pic up of one of their factory built. A cool colour scheme in Corvette red. The tricycle looks better than tail wheel imo. I’m leaning tricycle.


Avionics. I was temporarily excited by GRT. They are definitely up and comers minus maps problems outside USA. It’s Dynon or Garmin. I lean Garmin and no doubt influenced by IFR training. At 25 hours that’s making more sense and I absolutely get you end up a better pilot. It’s just bloody difficult!







In the picture it looks like Nic has left fitting the under wing skin for you to fit 🙂

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48 minutes ago, Blueadventures said:

In the picture it looks like Nic has left fitting the under wing skin for you to fit 🙂

Ha! I think this was left open for inspection and he’s moved forward since. Well, that’s what he tells me. 🤔 

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Here is a Rans S21 for sale in USA. A couple of interesting things. It has 195hp and 140kn  cruise. Be very interesting to see what the 220hp pushes that airframe along at. I know it’s draggy and the HP is giving us the cruise. Titan 180hp 135kn cruise. This Lyc 195hp. 140kn cruise. Probably 145kn cruise as long as Nic pays the fuel tab.  I flew with Randy and he pulled back to some 115-120kn cruise to show fuel consumption similar to a Rotax. 

Also, the price. That S21 in advert below is pushing  270k AUD on current exchange rate. We have as 5th share importers (container split cost) some 70k in each aircraft as supplied by Rans. Well, we have tricycle kit now so say 75k. 

Engine. The 220hp ULPower will be landed at approx 80k. Note, the turbo bumps the price quite a bit.


Avionics. Dynon or Garmin with dual 10” touch, GPS and autopilot some 50k plus or minus.


CSU Prop. Some 15k 


Approx 220k. Plus other misc stuff. All prices AUD. Note.. I’ve been exchanging AUD/USD for some 30 years as importer/ exporter.

I’d hang off if you can afford to wait on an exchange improvement. Currently any USD I have are going into AUD. I’ve learned not to give money advice. However, exchange rate has fair certainty but don’t bet that farm. It’s all in that chart below. Pretty obvious.


I purchased a house in USA in 2011 at parity. I think that’s when our idiot government started closing the car industry. Sold last year and will flip those USD to AUD about now. Some 50% gain minus 15k a year in USA property tax. Lincoln NE some of the highest taxes in USA!






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Update. Inspection in next few days and this is second wing. I was a bit ahead…Looks good to me!

USA counting down to return. IFR is satisfying and achievable at 26 hours Tuesday followed by Wednesday’s good on approaches and radio terrible. Well… called clearance and released mike and  heard instructions without my tail number. It was another aircrafts tail. I read back their clearance… Lesson. Take at least one second and think about it. Radio anxiety persists overlaid with scans while climbing/ descending and chasing OBS with foggles. I think in some ways it’s going to be easier when we actually plan a flight and I know what’s coming. I get we are building skills, it’s just never ending changes for now. CASA confirmed I can’t convert IFR, SES and night VFR (USA is 3 hours. CASA is 5 night VFR hours… I have to get 2 more in) in this application (now underway back in Australia FAA to CASA)


A separate new application later. Takes pressure off completing IFR. I’ll still give it a shot. maybe. 


July 4th South Dakota was annoyed by my niece working out while I was trying to study IFR. 

Big breakthrough this week on shipping and ever changing aircraft decisions…. The Sinus motor glider in Moriarty New Mexico is coming to Australia with its 50ft wings. Robert has loading facilities and even packing stuff from when he’s imported Pipistrel’s to USA. Rans finishing kit will go to Moriarty. I’m selling the Quicksilver through Quicksilver USA and buying a new kit QS 2S that’ll ship to Moriarty. Puddle jumper floats will ship to Moriarty. Aerosport carbon parts to Moriarty. ULPower USA new engine cowling and UL520 motor mount with tricycle option will ship to Moriarty. Robert will consolidate and pack while I’m back in Australia . They even have a forklift and loading dock. 

The 75ft by 36ft hangar will have a tail wheel motor glider, amphibious quicksilver (Hirth 60hp air cooled coming from Europe separate) and the S21. 

Virus SW121 will be sold early next year. 220k if anyone wants a beautiful aircraft! That 135kn economical cruise is very attractive along with the inbuilt safety factors of 17:1 glide and BRS. 






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And… my Lincoln NE dentist is building a hybrid S21. I knew he was building a Rans. Turns out he will be fabric fuselage hybdid with S21 wings. No doubt I’ll find out more next week while getting 2 crowns.

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  • 1 month later...

Progress. Plenty of YouTube’s along with the manuals. 05 degrees out then when we finally finished riveting we were 0.00 fore and aft. Nice to have it tweak itself perfect. 

That baggage compartment is a little tricky. We ended up quite neatly fitted. 

Wheels next after floor pan tomorrow. Only been back a week and we have made heaps of progress. 








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