RV-15 Live In-Person
by Greg Kochersperger
Obviously, the RV-15 was a big center of attention at AirVenture this year. After announcing it last year at Oshkosh there has been so much hype and speculation. A few well-timed videos that Van’s released in the weeks leading up to this year really got people stirred up, and I think raised more questions than answers. Many of those answers are clear now, although Van’s stressed that the aircraft we see today make not be much like what enters production. They refer to it as a “test article”, not even a prototype. Being their first high wing, I’m sure there is much to work out.
Seeing the airplane at their booth, it’s big! It’s the largest wing they’ve put on a plane, and they acknowledge they are still playing with the proportions; they may cut it back some. But it was also easier to walk under than most high wings I’ve experienced. To me it looks exactly like what I would expect a high wing RV to look like. I think what will make it special is the performance. It gets a strong reaction from Van’s lovers and haters, and the predisposition doesn’t seem to influence peoples’ answer. It doesn’t fit my mission, but I personally like the look of the plane. It helped that it was beautifully constructed by the prototype shop, and polished to a high sheen.
I did go out of my way to sit in on a forum with the Van’s engineering and prototype team and learned a lot more details about the plane in its current form, as well as the design goals and objectives for the team. As an engineer myself, it’s fun to peak behind the curtain a bit at their process. I won’t cover all of the details, because as I started to write this Paul Dye released his own article in Kitplanes with much more detail and access to the plane than I could dream of. Additional details I picked up at the forum: they are targeting the hole in the market left by the Cessna 170. It will be two-place; they’re more focused on baggage space than a four place airplane, and the cargo space does look impressive. They claim two full-size mountain bikes will easily go in with just the front tires removed. It will have a four-cylinder and they’re targeting a cruise speed if 140 kts. Sounds like they got close to those numbers flying it out to OSH and still doesn’t have many of the fairings on it. Paul Dye’s article alludes to the possible development of floats for the plane; Van’s confirmed in the forum that it is definitely in the works and that they are planning on developing the floats kits themselves.
The main gear is a bit of an engineering marvel. It has a nitrogen gas shock suspension system that is entirely enclosed within the cabin floor. The tail gear is equally impressive with a four link, gas shock suspension system. They highlighted the ability to quickly adjust the tail wheel height when going from standard tires to larger tundra tires. The gear components, as well as other prominent items such as the flap tracks for the fowler flaps are all CNC machined aluminum stock. Very impressive looking.
I was surprised to see the use of pull-rivets throughout similar to an RV-12. Van’s is really trying to sell the idea of the solo builder and not needing a bucking partner. They’re targeting people that want to fly not necessarily build. For the hardcore builders out there, they are planning to give the option of solid rivets, but they’re planning on soft 1/8” rivets for the skins instead of 3/32” hard rivets that we’re used to.
They’re at least 18 months away from production kits, but they highlighted with their new production capacity that is 18 months plus a short wait, not 18 months plus another year or more of lead time. Of course, the question of price came up. Van himself jumped in to answer the question and said they still working through it but was safe to say it would fall somewhere between the -10 and the -14. There seemed to be some uncertainty about the final production costs of all the CNC parts. Van did note that they price their kits with a consistent mark-up across all models, not increasing the margin of certain kits based on popularity or marketing hype.