Richard (Van) VanGrunsven’s Van's Aircraft, Inc. began in 1973 with partial kits for the RV-3. These were manufactured by Van himself, working in a small shop behind his house in Reedville, Oregon. Later the company moved to North Plains, Oregon, a small town about 25 miles west of Portland. After twenty years and several expansions, Van’s had exhausted the available opportunities in North Plains, so in 2000 the company moved to a new 60,000 square foot facility on the Aurora, Oregon airport. The company employed 70 people (and hundreds more in sub-contract roles) and keeps them busy producing several hundred complete aircraft kits a year and shipping them all over the world.
The RV-3’s performance gained an enthusiastic following, and naturally, many pilots wanted to share the experience with a friend. Van resisted for a while, reasoning that a bigger, heavier airplane just couldn’t perform as well as a light single-seater, but eventually he recognized the depth of the demand and began developing a two-place airplane. Tandem seating was chosen for the RV-4 because of the lower drag, superior centerline visibility, lighter weight, and overall fighter-like sportiness. It was a combination well suited to the market it entered in 1981. With performance nearly that of the RV-3 and an extra seat as well, the RV-4 became an immediate favorite and soon surpassed the RV-3 in popularity.
In the early to mid 1980s, the homebuilt market began to shift toward efficient touring, rather than pure sport airplanes. In response, Van’s developed the side-by-side RV-6. Careful design and attention to aerodynamic details resulted in a new airplane that retained the delightful handling and short field qualities of the RV-4, and despite the wider fuselage, had a top speed only 3 mph less. The trigear RV-6A was developed from the RV-6 to better fill the needs of the modern pilot. The addition of the nosewheel reduces the top speed only 2 mph.
In 1995, Van’s revisited the tandem concept and came up with the RV-8, a new design incorporating improvements learned from years of experience with the RV-4 and RV-6/6A. With a wider cockpit than the RV-4, two baggage compartments and increased instrument panel space, the RV-8 offers greater cross-country comfort without compromising the fighter-like sportiness of centerline seating. The RV-8 was designed to handle engines of 150-200 hp, and with the 200 hp IO-360 Lycoming, it sustains cruise speeds of 212 mph. Top speed is 222 mph. The RV-8A made its first flight in April 1998 and kits were available soon after.
1996-7: PO Box 160, North Plains, OR 97133, USA.
The RV-9A, a side-by-side tricycle-gear design, was first flown in December 1997. A completely new wing with a higher aspect ratio and new airfoil gave excellent low speed flying qualities and very efficient cruise. Similar in size and weight to the RV-6, it cruises at about the same speeds, but stalls several miles per hour slower. This wing permits the use of lower-powered engines, providing an alternative for those who don’t feel the need for a "bigger, faster, more powerful" airplane. Somewhat later, the RV-9 tailwheel version was developed.
In the spring of 2001 the 2-seat side by side RV-7/7A was introduced, replacing the RV-6/6A. The RV-7/7A has slightly more leg and headroom than the RV-6/6A, carries more fuel, and has a higher allowable gross weight. It will accept all 4-cylinder Lycoming engines from the 150 hp O-320 to the 200 hp IO-360. The kit incorporates all of the advanced technology that Van’s learned designing and producing the RV-8/8A and the RV-9/9A.
In 2003, Van’s ventured into a whole new world and offered the RV-10, our first four-place airplane. Designed as a true four-person airplane (the ability to carry four people is different than having four seats) the RV-10 will carry four full-sized adults, sixty gallons of fuel and baggage. Speeds and performance are comparable to the two seat RVs, and better than most four-place production airplanes.
In 2005, about 4,000 RV kits (an average of almost 130 per year for the history of the company) have been completed and flown, and thousands more are under construction. Completion rates have exceeded one per day for the last few years. RVs are flying in at least 26 different countries and are under construction in more than fifty.
The RV-2 was a wooden flying-wing sailplane. Van started construction in the early 70s but the airplane was never finished or flown. Parts of it still hang on his hangar wall. The RV-5 was a very small metal single-seater, designed by Van and built by a group of friends from a local EAA chapter. Although it flew quite successfully with a small two-stroke engine, only one was ever built. It is still in Van’s hangar and one of Van’s engineers recently surveyed it with an eye toward restoration…it may fly again.