Van’s Aircraft Celebrates 50th Anniversary With a High-Wing Design

It’s a first for the kitplane manufacturer, and a bid for the backcountry market.

Can you imagine celebrating your 50th anniversary with a new baby? In a manner of speaking that’s what Van’s Aircraft is doing. The Aurora, Oregon-based company announced the first flight of the engineering prototype of the Van’s RV-15 this week. The company has been producing all-metal kit airplanes since 1972.

“This is the first high-wing design by Van’s,” notes Greg Hughes, Van’s vice president. “We began flying it last month and it flies well, but I want to stress that it is the engineering prototype so it is functionally pretty close to the final design.”

The purpose of the all-metal RV-15 will be backcountry flying. The website touts that this airplane will allow the pilot to “go places, get dirty and catch fish.”

The RV-15 is a clean-sheet design, says Hughes, although Van’s fans may notice a family resemblance to other company designs through the cowling and the distinctive P-51 Mustang-inspired tail. The landing gear of the high-wing is described as backcountry friendly, with an internal shock absorber.

When it’s ready, it’s ready.

Greg Hughes, vice president, Van’s Aircraft

As this story was being prepared, Van’s Aircraft was still test flying the prototype, and had not made a decision as to whether it would make the trip to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, later this month.

“When it’s ready, it’s ready,” says Hughes, emphasizing it is not about a timetable to follow, rather it’s about making sure the engineering and performance aspect of the aircraft meet Van’s expectations.

“What we have learned from the engineering-prototype-article airplane will inform and drive any tweaks and adjustments we will make in developing the kit airplane. The kit airplane needs to be highly buildable. Aesthetic form will follow function, and the engineering prototype’s functionality is pretty close to final design. It is designed and constructed…in a way that allows flexibility in configuration, and ability to make small changes that we would make in the first flying article.”

The RV-15 all-metal design features a control stick and will be backcountry capable. [Courtesy: Van’s Aircraft]

Hughes added that Van’s is not taking orders for the RV-15 just yet.

Van’s has been very closemouthed on the specifications of the new design, saying they don’t want to give any details until the aircraft is perfect. What they have released thus far: It is a high-wing, backcountry capable, all-metal design that will feature a control stick. According to the website, the engine will be a Lycoming, the aircraft will have seats (“yes”) and “lots” of baggage room. 

The Van’s RV-15 will premier as a tailwheel-equipped aircraft, and a tricycle version will follow.

The prototype takes flight. [Courtesy: Van’s Aircraft]

About Van’s Aircraft

Van’s Aircraft entered the kit airplanes market in 1972 with low-wing, all-metal designs. 

The designs range in size from the single-place RV-3, and several dual-place designs ranging from side-by-side to tandem seating and the four-place RV-10. Van’s designs are known for their versatility. They can be built for aerobatics, cross-country flights, and there is a special light sport aircraft (S-LSA) that can be purchased as a completed build. If the rows and rows of Van’s RVs at AirVenture are any indication, Van’s Aircraft owns the lion’s share of the kitplane market.


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