You’ll notice that the RV-14 has a tilt-up canopy, something I like a lot, as it does away with a lot of the structure of a sliding canopy to enhance the already-spectacular view outside. It also allows easy access to the back of the radio stack, something that is of great interest to amateur homebuilders and their lower backs, as most of these homebuilders sidelight as avionics techs in their spare time.
One thing you’ll notice with the RV-14 is its low-aspect-ratio (a nice way of saying “stubby”) wings. They are shorter than those on the RV-10, and they’re stronger, too. Like many, though not all, RVs, the ’14 is designed for recreational aerobatics, positive-G stuff, according to Van’s, which says the airplane meets the G-load requirements of the aerobatic category. For the record, I didn’t wring out the RV-14 when I flew it, though I have done plenty of loops and rolls in different RVs in the past. It’s fun to have that capability, though, even if you’re not going to chute up on a regular basis.
The seats in the RV-14 are comfy, and there’s an obscene amount of space between them. Ken is a fairly tall guy, yet I think that three of him could have fit side-by-side-by-side up front. Like every RV (there are probably some one-off exceptions), the ’14 is controlled by sticks. The glass surrounds the pilots, affording excellent visibility all around — and, yes, even down, to a great degree. The side of the canopy on the new two-seater is much lower than on previous-generation RVs — just one more improvement Van’s has made to the lineup.
The panel in the demonstrator is an impressive one, as is the case with so many amateur-built airplanes these days, thanks to some wildly capable, non-certified avionics systems. In this case it was the Dynon SkyView flat-panel system, which features synthetic vision, vertical tapes and customized voice annunciations, such as the one that reminded me that I hadn’t gotten the flaps completely up after takeoff.
In back of the seats is a big baggage area where you could put a few huge duffels or, possibly, a mini-bike, a big dog or two medium-sized dogs. This feature should not go unremarked-upon, as many runabouts have far too little room for bags — and what fun is getting somewhere cool and getting there fast if you don’t have enough room to bring along a couple of changes of clothes?
One really great change to the RV lineup is the use of improved landing gear on the new models. The old gear works fine in most ways, but if you bounced the landing, it could amplify the effect. With the new gear, the balance between cushioning and support is spot-on.
You taxi the RV-14 like any nosewheel RV, with differential braking at slow speeds and with rudder once you get some air flowing over that surface. We had a fairly stiff crosswind at Aurora State that day in Oregon, and it took an occasional jab of brake to keep things straight.
As we rolled out onto the runway, I smoothly applied full throttle while asking Ken about what speed to rotate. He offered, like any good pilot who flies a large number of different models, that he wasn’t quite sure, but to apply a little back pressure and we’d be flying already. Which I did, and we were. The ’14 doesn’t need much runway, and, once we were off, we climbed smartly, at almost 1,000 fpm at 90 knots, through the early-afternoon bumps.
There aren’t many folks who’ve flown an RV-14, and I count myself lucky to be one of them. It was a joy to fly, with the roll response being precisely how it must feel, to steal a line from Baxter, when you go flying in heaven. The pitch feel, on the other hand, is a little light for my taste, which probably just means I need a lighter touch. I flew it slow, did some steep turns, and some power-on and power-off stalls. The airplane remained nicely responsive even at very slow speeds, thanks in part to the slotted flaps, which were inspired by those on the RV-10.
As I’d guessed, the RV-14 is plenty fast. At 4,500 feet we were indicating about 155 knots and truing 165 knots, or Mach .25. This was with a fuel burn of right about 11 gph. With 50 gallons of usable fuel, that equates to about 750 nautical miles of range with VFR reserves. Pulling the power back, you can easily push that past 800 nautical miles if need be.
Heading back to Aurora State, we did a couple of touch-and-goes, and a full stop to end it. The key, as with any airplane, is to control your speed. Hit your numbers, and the RV-14 will use precious little runway. Smooth touchdowns, thanks to the leaf-spring gear and the great visibility, are shamefully easy to pull off. Don’t tell your passengers.
The RV-14 probably won’t be the best-selling RV ever, but those many customers who do buy it will be thrilled with the choice — and why not? The RV-14 takes all of the great qualities of the Van’s lineup and melds them into an economical and easier-than-ever-to-build two-seat touring airplane that is plenty fast, a joy to fly and sporty to beat the band. Surprise, surprise: another winner from Van’s.