The RV-15 Engineering Prototype

On this one page you will find my best effort at gathering all of the high-level info on the RV-15 engineering prototype a) as it is released by the mothership and b) I find info posted by the various mothership employees in the forums related to it (meant to clear up misinformation - they do this occasionally as a courtesy). 

Starting off is my favorite picture from OSH'22.  We had about 3 seconds to make it happen before Axel taxied the a/c over to the booth (and the crowd).  One last calm moment before the RV-15 supernova went critical and the RV universe expanded.  As new info is sent to me by the mothership I'll add it here. 

PS:  Typing into your browser will bring you to this page.


Say hello to the RV-15 engineering prototype and some of the folks who designed it.
This pic about 20 minutes before the team showed the RV-15 to the OSH crowd in person.
L-R: Rob, Scott, Axel, Rian and Brian.


Latest News:

1/28/2023:  EAA Webinar of updates/changes made to the design after flying the engineering prototype.


(Greg Hughes: Van's Aircraft COO)
We're incredibly proud of our entire team and the work they've put into the RV-15 prototype aircraft, getting it designed, built, and ready to show the world!



(Bernardo: Van's Engineer)
"64-minute presentation by Van's Aircraft employees at AirVenture 2022 about the RV-15: the preliminary design, current prototype configuration, fabrication and assembly, test and analysis, ingenious landing gear mechanisms, and the many ways in which the airplane will change between the current prototype and the final kit. Addresses key questions such as engine, cruise speed, useful load, number of seats, kinds of rivets, choice of some kinds of high-lift devices rather than others, timeline for the start of kit sales, etc."



FLYER's Ed Hicks talks to Van's President and CTO Rian Johnson



(Kitplanes) We checked in with Van's Greg Hughes for an update on the RV-15's launch at AirVenture. Now that the 15 has been poked and prodded by thousands of show goers, let's see what's next for the company's first high-wing airplane.



(Bernardo: Van's Engineer)
I placed my time-lapse camera on the upper corner of the Van's tent, pointed it roughly at the area where I thought the RV-15 would be parked... and they placed the airplane so that it was perfectly framed in the shot. I am very pleased by the results, despite the fact that this beautiful composition was sheer dumb luck!

Oh, and see if you can spot the moment, about 46 or 47 seconds into the video, where they play the Star-Spangled Banner.


( A short video I put together of OSH'22 centered on the RV-15.

What We Know:
(sent to me by Van's employees)

  • RV-15 Engineering Prototype (Mothership Page)  

  • 12 to 18 months until we release either the wing kit or the empennage kit, hopefully by Oshkosh 2023.

  • Utility category: +4.4, -2.2

  • Engine: From 180 hp to 220 hp.

  • Goals: 900 lbs useful load, 140 KTAS cruise

  • Seats: 2+Baggage. Optimized for a mission of "2 people and a whole lot of gear". The back area could have a bench seat for two little kids or a third adult seat. Currently the capacity of the back area is 200 lbs.

  • Float kit in early preliminary design stages.

  • 35.5 ft span with the wingtips on the prototype.

  • (re: RV-15 w/215hp vs C170 w/145hp)
    The C170 weight and the target weight for the kit RV-15 are essentially the same. We just want to do more.

  • (re: Gurney flaps on elevator trailing edge)
    ...This is an engineering prototype. We had a choice of going quick or leaving the plane at home. In order to go quick, we can change the length or height of the tab. That takes hours. Or we can build a new stab which will take days. After flying the airplane, I provided the feedback that the stick force per G was too light. So we are tuning the feedback/forces. When we get the plane home, we will build a new stab with the hinge 1/8 of an inch from where it is now and the forces will be what they are now.
    The final kit will not have those on.

  • Each flap is over 10 feet.

  • Cabin width is 46", same as an RV-10, 4" wider than a Cessna 180.

  • Trapeze ropes in cockpit:
    "The rope pull handles are test aircraft feature only, to enable emergency door jettison if needed."

  • Fuel Tank:
    "The fuel tank in the cabin is only for the test airplane. Certain prototype aircraft design considerations are there to enable us to make engineering changes and adjustments (keep in mind, this is an engineering test prototype airplane), easily change configurations in weight/balance, loading, etc."

  • Baggage Door:
    The kit will have one.

  • 34-percent-chord ailerons (versus 25% in other RVs) in part inspired by the Helio Courier (also true of the stabilator).

  • Airfoil designed with aerodynamicist Steve Smith to combine high lift with docile stall. Most STOL airplanes have high-camber airfoils (i.e. you never fully get rid of the flaps); This one does not, so drag is lower, cruise speed will be higher.

  • Stiffness of landing gear shock absorbers is tunable via air pressure.

  • Parallelogram four-bar linkage in tailwheel ensures constant caster angle, preventing shimmy.

  • Lots of fairings still need to be added.

  • For easy entry, the seat slides all the way back behind the door, and the stick has a "D shape" so most of it is under the panel; It's easy to step in between the seat and the stick.

  • Cowl will be improved: Right now it's a slightly modified 14 cowl. Needs bigger openings, would probably benefit from cowl flaps.

  • Its unique articulated landing gear, with shock absorbers hidden in the floor, sets it apart from its competition and predecessors. Patent pending!

  • The RV-15 kit will be offered with domed-head blind rivets, the same LP4 rivets used on the RV-12, just because they allow for faster assembly and have more than the required structural capability.
    For folks who would prefer flush solid rivets, like on all other RVs, we are hoping to be able to offer the option of using AN426A4 rivets on the exterior skins. Most rivets in other RV skins are AN426AD3, where "AD" means aluminum 2117 - which is quite hard - and "3" means 3/32" diameter. This new rivet being tested is the "A4": The "A" by itself means that it's made of aluminum 1100 (pure aluminum) which is softer than conventional rivets. Lots of tests and structural analysis must be done to show that the strength and fatigue properties of AN426A4 rivets - i.e. 1/8", flush, solid, "soft" rivets - are acceptable for assembling RV-15 structure. These tests and analyses are still ongoing, but initial results are promising, and we hope to offer the option of using these soft flush solid rivets for fastening at least most of the external skins.

  • I know it probably seems like worlds away from a lot of the U.S, but out here in the west, particularly here in the Pacific north west, there is a huge number of airstrips that are not particularly short (often times because of their elevation), or particular rough, but that are located in the "back country" and having an airplane that is biased more towards the capabilities of a true back country airplane can still be beneficial.

    The RV-15 will be capable of using the rougher / shorter back country strips, but I think the average user will be someone that doesn't regularly fly it to that extreme of its capabilities.


The VAF Forums
RV-15 Sub-Forum


100+ Images Related
to the Test Article

(most 3,800 pixels wide)


Kitplanes Article ..."Van's on Top"


This patch of grass never stood a chance.

...wins the dead grass award hands down.
Photo courtesy Van's Aircraft, Inc.