Celebrating the RV-1

The airplane that started it all embarks on a history-making tour across North America.

RV1
RV1

Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, marks the start of a very special journey for the airplane that spawned a homebuilding revolution. A group called Friends of the RV-1 has finished restoring Richard VanGrunsven's original RV-1 – the progenitor of the entire Van's Aircraft line from the RV-3 through the RV-12 – and now plans to fly the airplane across the USA and parts of Canada, stopping at dozens of airports as Van's fans are given the chance to see the historic airplane up close and personal.

The first stop on the tour is Sun ‘n Fun, where the yellow-and-white RV-1, N5827N, was proudly displayed throughout the week. Next on the tour is Spruce Creek Airport in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Saturday, March 31. After that there are 20 more stops planned before the RV-1 arrives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for EAA AirVenture on July 23. There will also be several impromptu stops along the way as the RV-1, flown by a rotating team of volunteer pilots, stops for fuel. Van himself may even fly it.

The airplane has been restored, but merely to flyable condition and not pristine condition. Restorers have left a patina of age that preserves the airplane's history and gives an idea of what it would have looked like when Van first flew it in November 1963. Based on a Stits SA3A Playboy that was originally constructed in 1955, Van modified the airplane with a cantilevered aluminum wing, bubble canopy and 125-horsepower Lycoming engine that replaced the Playboy's original 85-horsepower Continental. That extra power allowed the modified Stits to get off the ground in a hurry, while the redesigned wing with hinged flaps improved its handling qualities. VanGrunsven tried selling the plans to kit builders of the day, but not a single one was ever built. After flying the RV-1 for a few years and about 600 hours in the 1960s, VanGrunsven began to ponder an improved airplane totally of his own design. That kitplane turned out to be the RV-3, one of the most successful designs in the company's 40-plus-year history.

The reborn RV-1 is equipped with a SPOT satellite tracker allowing devotees of the airplane to follow its progress day by day. Visit the flight-tracking page by clicking here. Now that the restoration is complete, Friends of the RV-1 is taking on a new mission. As part of a project called Eagle's Nest, the group is launching several projects for kids to build RV-12 kits. After Oshkosh, the RV-1 will take its place in the EAA museum for future generations to enjoy, so this is probably your only chance to see the RV-1 fly. Visit RV1.org to find out if the airplane's planned route will take it to an airport near you. If it will, make it a point to see history in motion.