RV15 from a distance: the Jurassic builder files.
There I was, in front of the Vans booth at OSH 22' having just sneaked up on my buddy DR when....
"Hello Smokey" came a familiar greeting from a familiar face from a galaxy and life chapter far away. Yet it's seemingly a beacon to a supposedly ill-spent youth constructing and flying a personal airplane.
Richard "Dick" Van Grunsven and I go back nearly four decades, long before the current internet and personal device age existed. We've shared ideas and communication with a common theme, experimental RV aircraft design. While building and eventually flying my early RV4 and later RV6X, I've had many chats with "Mr. RV" and found him to literally coin the phrase, quiet genius.
Amid the throngs of Oshkosh 2022' spectators gathered around the RV15 prototype, Dick and I chatted in a near-undisturbed silence. Somehow we'd been missed in the almost unoccupied VAF booth, holding vigil with Tshirts, hats and kit flyers.
With the obtuse, very unconventional-conventional gear high wing RV15 prototype next to us, Vans wry smile was detectable. When I queried him as to his thoughts on the shiny beast a few feet away his countenance changed to a grin yet his silence spoke volumes. Classic Van.
My association with The" lil' ole airplane company from Oregon" goes back to the late 1980's and a magazine on a F16 squadron coffee table. Seems I was inside our Top Secret 14th Fighter Squadron Vault in Misawa Japan, pondering which of the many restricted viewing volumes I would peruse today. On top of the pile on the table was a dated copy of Kitplanes. I quickly perused the pages while preparing to dive into the volumes of classified literature required of a modern day fighter pilot. At the bottom of a page was a small advertisement titled "total performance" and a picture of a sharp looking sport aircraft with "RV4" labeled below it. I scribbled down their address (websites didn't exist in 1988) and later would write them a note requesting information. What I received would change my aviation perspective and world forever.
A few weeks later my APO address received a large envelope from North Plains, Oregon containing some literature but more importantly a VHS tape. When I cued it up I heard corny music and saw what looked like a fly-in somewhere. It was a grass strip with a guy standing around a bunch of nice RV3s and 4s. He was using a handheld radio to direct traffic and there was a lot of it! Wow, I'm hooked. Regardless of time, cost or hassle, I was in, where do I sign?
My RV4 tail kit was ordered!
Nearly three and a half decades later, that same man is seated on a stool in front of me. We've chatted many times over the years, probably my most profound moment was after documenting a flutter incident in my RV4. Seems I was dodging thunderstorms on my way home from Guard Drill weekend, a 2.5 hour flight in my Four. Cruising at 11,500 surrounded by typical Florida afternoon towering cumulus clouds, I neared home. I began a descent weaving around the clouds as my strip neared. As I attempted to zip thru a hole in the clouds below and to my right, I increased forward stick pressure and my airspeed approached VNE. However comma, my true airspeed was well beyond. It was at this moment I began to notice a slight tickle in the stick which then got more frequent and with stronger pulses. I reduced power even more, held the stick gently with both hands as I slowed in a shallow climb. The rest of the flight was uneventful but many thoughts went thru my cranium. I decided to email Van with the data directly. He responded and suggested writing an article for the RVator that everyone could learn from. This I did and over the years I've received a surprisingly large interest and correspondence concerning it.
But I digress...
"So Smokey, whadda ya think of the 15?"
"Unknown sir as I haven't examined it closely, however it looks like many excellent airplanes from my past."
Having grown up with a Cessna 180 and owned a Maule M5, I'm sure it will serve the mission well.
Van and I would shake hands once again, part ways and I would disappear into the throngs at airplane Mecca. However, I would revisit the 15 during the night airshow to find it abandoned, dark and unlocked. As my special operator friends always said, "if you wanna good look at a target, go at night when no one's around."
I actually like the RV15 although I've said many times that Van could have stopped at the RV4, sport plane perfection notwithstanding.
It's interesting to see the estimated costs of building one now. Seemingly my old F35 Bonanza cost less than its engine and prop. The panel is another story.
I told a friend that I can't afford to buy my RVs back now as they've been discovered!
Build again? Maybe.
We will see.
Having actually helped build a Bearhawk 4 and subsequently flying it a lot, The RV15 has some healthy, albeit very capable competition.
It's in the same family of many similar kits and not to mention the similar certified aircraft. Did I say certified?
Yet the RV15 has one thing the others don't; Vans Aircraft Inc.
With so many other similar designs out there(Murphy, Zenith, Glastar, Rans, etc) we will see if the Aurora Oregon juggernaut can hold the pace with yet another design.
My guess is yes.
Sent from my SE