Experimental Roots

I got a chance to fly a new airplane that - while not experimental itself (it's a production SLSA), its roots run deep in our world. The airplane - the Ranger by Vashon Aircraft - is designed for the training market, powered by the old reliable O-200, and was designed by Ken Kruger, former chief engineer for Van's Aircraft.  Ken was the engineering force behind a number of today's most popular aircraft kits, and now serves as an independent design consultant. Vashon Aircraft  - a sister company to Dynon Avionics - hired him to create the Ranger, and the aircraft is poised to go into production in the near future.

Ken stopped by with the Ranger to give us a chance to fly the little airplane, and we never turn down a chance to try something new. The airplane features a roomy cockpit that should be a pleasant classroom for those learning to fly, and - of course - a full Dynon Skyview HDX panel. The strutless cantilevered wing allows easy access to large doors on either side of the cabin, and care has been taken to keep that access clear - hence, the pitot/static/AoA probe that is mounted ABOVE the wing on one side.

The carbureted O-200 cranked up quickly and smoothly, and all controls fit neatly to hand. The airplane features a full swiveling nose wheel, and taxiing was conventional, as was the preflight checklist and run-up. The one-piece wing has no dihedral, and makes the tips seem a little low, but as with any high wing airplane, you need to turn a little to see around the wings to make sure the approach path was clear before taking the runway. Not a problem - just different.

vashon ranger cockpit

Take-off was as you'd expect from a light sport at altitude - with initial climb about 600 - 700 fpm with two onboard and fuel, making us right about at gross. The rudder is powerful and sensitive - but not oversensitive. Roll and pitch were nicely harmonized, and turns were comfortable. Slow flight was stable, and the stall had a gentle break, with no significant tendency to roll off one way or another. The break is just to a level flight attitude, and if you hold the yoke back, you just get a lot of sink with good roll and yaw control.

We shot a few landings, all of which were natural and easily done in less than 1,000' without really trying. The airplane should make an excellent trainer, with conventional, honest handling. It should give students a good start and sound basic principles they can carry into any airplane and type of flying they choose.

This airplane, the second built - is fully comforming, so it is essentially a production aircraft with nice fit and finish. We look forward to following the airplane as it moves into production, and into the hands of flight schools and their students.

Paul Dye

Paul Dye, Kitplanes® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the space shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and a Subsonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor, and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

5 Replies to “Experimental Roots”

  1. I was very excited to learn about the Vashon Ranger 7 as there are so few affordable LSA trainers out there. While not cheap, this seems like a great step in the right direction, a modern Cessna 150. Still, I am a little disappointed by the numbers. 1,320 lb gross weight - 875 empty weight - 168 lb fuel - 9 lb oil = 268 lb payload with full fuel or 352 lb with half fuel. That means that two 170 lb FAA-standard people and just over half a tank puts you at gross weight, and heftier people mean even less fuel. The Ranger 7 seems like a fantastic plane than desperately needs to go on a diet.

  2. Easy diet. Get rid of the 1930's designed engine and put in something modern. There's 100#.
    You sure the designer didn't work for GM or Chrysler before this.

  3. It is obvious Vashon must comply with LSA specs in order to build a
    certified light sport aircraft. It is just that, it isn't a heavy hauler.

  4. Beautiful SLSA, but just another C-152 trainer that as Matthew Long's calculations show can not handle 2 average American adults (average American adult is now over 180 lbs), and just what the GA community doesn't need! One major reason general aviation is dying is that over 1/2 of the adults can't be flown in the standard (affordable) trainers. Having flown Young Eagles, some were already over 180 pounds and many more are going to be well over 180 pounds as young adults. How do we train this future generation of aviators if they require expensive 4 seat training aircraft to carry their weight?

    Someone needs to challenge the SLSA manufactures to build and affordable plane that can legally fly two, 300 pound adults so that weight, density altitude, floats and fuel are not an issue. This would be a major step in saving GA and would be a good business move by an SLSA manufacture as many of these students would then buy the same type of aircraft they learned to fly in.

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