Don Huffs RANS S-7
by Mary Jones
Don Huff says he decided when he was a
youngster that he would build an airplane some day, he just didnt know when.
When turned out to be 1995; the airplane a RANS S-7. Don has been an
active modeler all his life even though his real goal was to become a pilot and build his
own plane. I started building model airplanes because I didnt have enough
money when I was younger for a full-size airplane. I started flying lessons in the 1970s,
but my instructor was turned off when I talked about flying ultralights, so that set me
back a bit. During the Weedhopper days, I was undecided just what kind of flying I wanted
Then, a few years ago, a 16-year-old girl told me she was taking flight training; I
decided if she could do it, so could I. I started taking lessons again along with one of
my model building buddies. That seemed to make it easier and more interesting. It was nice
to have someone to talk with about the things we were learning.
About halfway through his flight training, Huff decided it was time to get serious
about owning an airplane. He attended Sun n Fun 94, took some introductory
flights in various light aircraft and chose the RANS S-7 as fulfilling his needs the
best. He ordered the kit, took delivery in early 1995 and completed the aircraft in 660
hours over a 7-month period. Don is semi-retired and operates an asphalt
company for his living, so he was able to work on the aircraft project nearly full time.
Im good with my hands, but not with paper and numbers, so I handle the
physical operation of the plant and leave the paperwork to those with more skill in that
Don says his model building skills transferred quite well to constructing a
full-size aircraft. But he doesnt believe in varying from the designers plans.
I followed the assembly manual pretty faithfully; Id always try doing things
the way they said first, then if the part didnt look right, I might try a different
method. Ive always followed the plans when building my model aircraft, and they all
have flown well. Ive seen what happens when people dont follow instructions,
so I didnt want to get into that kind of trouble with a full-size airplane.
He did add items like arm rests and an electric trim tab system for creature comfort,
but he didnt make any modifications to the structural part of the aircraft. I
think its safer to put your individualism into non-structural things like the
instrument panel, the interior and the paint scheme.
Don made the first flight in his RANS S-7 in February of 1996. He completed the
40-hour test flight requirement in time to fly the aircraft from his home in
LaGrange, Georgia to Sun n Fun that year but decided against it. I only
had about 300 hours of flight time total and wasnt sure my flying skills were good
enough to take this plane down there. I guess you could say I was scared, but sometimes
its wise to be scared.
Instead, Don flew the aircraft to Sun n Fun 97 and was thrilled when the
aircraft was named Grand Champion Light Plane. Since February of 96, hes
logged over 830 hours on his S-7, including a return trip to Sun n Fun this past
spring and a two-week adventure flying to AirVenture Oshkosh 98 and back.
Don says theres another kit airplane in his future, he just hasnt decided
which one as yet. All he knows is he thinks hed like to go higher and faster.
After accumulating 800-plus hours in a couple of years, though, its not likely he
could go more often.