“An RV will allow you to fly it like any other airplane, but it’s going to be a little more demanding, to the point where the limiting factor is going to be the pilot rather than the airplane,” he says.
As RV pilots know, and appreciate, these are airplanes eager to go where you point them, with very little control input required.
“You really want to fly an RV with a light touch, not your fist wrapped around the stick,” VanGrunsven says. “It becomes almost an extension of the pilot’s thought process. You think about where you want the airplane to go and it practically does it on its own.”
In a nod to the fact that flying an RV is “different” from the experience in some other single-engine airplanes, Van’s Aircraft is now supporting a transition-training program to prepare pilots coming from production airplanes for the unique handling traits of the line.
The Van’s “Air Force”
Van’s Aircraft’s customers are almost cultish in their devotion to the RV product family and, as a result, have developed close bonds and a camaraderie rarely seen among other airplane owners. This perhaps helps explain the rise of various builder groups around the world that serve as social networks as well as vast repositories of knowledge for would-be RV builders.
Doug Reeves is an enthusiastic RV supporter and the founder of vansairforce.net, the largest online community for devotees of all things Van’s. A former IT professional who used to work in a cramped office cubicle, Reeves built his website on a whim in 1997 and ran it as a side business to subsidize the cost of building his RV-6, nicknamed Flash. Over the course of the next decade, the site enjoyed exponential growth as tens of thousands of RV builders and dreamers alike made the site their favorite online destination for swapping ideas and researching building tips and tricks. The site became so popular that Reeves quit his day job to run it full time.
The need builders have for assistance, even if it’s merely online help, is understandable. No question, building an RV is challenging, with most builders needing years to finish their airplanes and too many never finishing the job. The RV-12 is the easiest to build (a group of 12 teenagers, assisted by a group of mentors, recently built one in a year and a half) but it takes time, and lots of it — around 800 hours on average for an RV-12, according to the company, versus the 1,600 hours or so for some other RV models.
Price for the RV-12, the most complete kit Van’s Aircraft sells, currently runs about $63,000 and includes everything from the airframe and wings to instruments and engine. The RV-10, meanwhile, carries a price that starts out at around $42,000, but because engine, avionics and interior are extra, there is no end to the customization that is possible. For that reason, the price for a finished RV-10 can easily rise to $250,000 or higher — but “it will outrun a Bonanza,” VanGrunsven says. (Importantly, he doesn’t say how old or weathered a Bonanza he’s talking about. When equipped with the recommended top-of-the-line 260 hp Lycoming engine and Hartzell constant-speed prop, the RV-10 has a top speed of 211 mph.)