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Old 08-05-2022, 06:46 PM
smokyray's Avatar
smokyray smokyray is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: TX32
Posts: 1,995
Default Van the Man...OSH 22'

RV15 from a distance: the Jurassic builder files.

There I was, in front of the Vans booth at OSH 22' having just sneaked up on my buddy DR when....

"Hello Smokey" came a familiar greeting from a familiar face from a galaxy and life chapter far away. Yet it's seemingly a beacon to a supposedly ill-spent youth constructing and flying a personal airplane.
Richard "Dick" Van Grunsven and I go back nearly four decades, long before the current internet and personal device age existed. We've shared ideas and communication with a common theme, experimental RV aircraft design. While building and eventually flying my early RV4 and later RV6X, I've had many chats with "Mr. RV" and found him to literally coin the phrase, quiet genius.
Amid the throngs of Oshkosh 2022' spectators gathered around the RV15 prototype, Dick and I chatted in a near-undisturbed silence. Somehow we'd been missed in the almost unoccupied VAF booth, holding vigil with Tshirts, hats and kit flyers.
With the obtuse, very unconventional-conventional gear high wing RV15 prototype next to us, Vans wry smile was detectable. When I queried him as to his thoughts on the shiny beast a few feet away his countenance changed to a grin yet his silence spoke volumes. Classic Van.
My association with The" lil' ole airplane company from Oregon" goes back to the late 1980's and a magazine on a F16 squadron coffee table. Seems I was inside our Top Secret 14th Fighter Squadron Vault in Misawa Japan, pondering which of the many restricted viewing volumes I would peruse today. On top of the pile on the table was a dated copy of Kitplanes. I quickly perused the pages while preparing to dive into the volumes of classified literature required of a modern day fighter pilot. At the bottom of a page was a small advertisement titled "total performance" and a picture of a sharp looking sport aircraft with "RV4" labeled below it. I scribbled down their address (websites didn't exist in 1988) and later would write them a note requesting information. What I received would change my aviation perspective and world forever.
A few weeks later my APO address received a large envelope from North Plains, Oregon containing some literature but more importantly a VHS tape. When I cued it up I heard corny music and saw what looked like a fly-in somewhere. It was a grass strip with a guy standing around a bunch of nice RV3s and 4s. He was using a handheld radio to direct traffic and there was a lot of it! Wow, I'm hooked. Regardless of time, cost or hassle, I was in, where do I sign?
My RV4 tail kit was ordered!
Nearly three and a half decades later, that same man is seated on a stool in front of me. We've chatted many times over the years, probably my most profound moment was after documenting a flutter incident in my RV4. Seems I was dodging thunderstorms on my way home from Guard Drill weekend, a 2.5 hour flight in my Four. Cruising at 11,500 surrounded by typical Florida afternoon towering cumulus clouds, I neared home. I began a descent weaving around the clouds as my strip neared. As I attempted to zip thru a hole in the clouds below and to my right, I increased forward stick pressure and my airspeed approached VNE. However comma, my true airspeed was well beyond. It was at this moment I began to notice a slight tickle in the stick which then got more frequent and with stronger pulses. I reduced power even more, held the stick gently with both hands as I slowed in a shallow climb. The rest of the flight was uneventful but many thoughts went thru my cranium. I decided to email Van with the data directly. He responded and suggested writing an article for the RVator that everyone could learn from. This I did and over the years I've received a surprisingly large interest and correspondence concerning it.
But I digress...
"So Smokey, whadda ya think of the 15?"
"Unknown sir as I haven't examined it closely, however it looks like many excellent airplanes from my past."
Having grown up with a Cessna 180 and owned a Maule M5, I'm sure it will serve the mission well.
Van and I would shake hands once again, part ways and I would disappear into the throngs at airplane Mecca. However, I would revisit the 15 during the night airshow to find it abandoned, dark and unlocked. As my special operator friends always said, "if you wanna good look at a target, go at night when no one's around."
I actually like the RV15 although I've said many times that Van could have stopped at the RV4, sport plane perfection notwithstanding.
It's interesting to see the estimated costs of building one now. Seemingly my old F35 Bonanza cost less than its engine and prop. The panel is another story.
I told a friend that I can't afford to buy my RVs back now as they've been discovered!
Build again? Maybe.
We will see.
Having actually helped build a Bearhawk 4 and subsequently flying it a lot, The RV15 has some healthy, albeit very capable competition.
It's in the same family of many similar kits and not to mention the similar certified aircraft. Did I say certified?
Yet the RV15 has one thing the others don't; Vans Aircraft Inc.

With so many other similar designs out there(Murphy, Zenith, Glastar, Rans, etc) we will see if the Aurora Oregon juggernaut can hold the pace with yet another design.

My guess is yes.


Sent from my SE

Last edited by smokyray : 08-07-2022 at 10:06 AM.
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Old 08-05-2022, 06:56 PM
goatflieg's Avatar
goatflieg goatflieg is offline
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Clarkston, MI
Posts: 951

That was a great read, Smokey! Thanks for sharing.
Martin J Filiatrault
Clarkston, MI
RV-8 #83507 - now free to fly with impunity.
Builder websites:
YouTube Channel:
Dues paid for 2022... extra payment included for psychological therapeutic services rendered.


Have you ever gotten the feeling you were smarter than you could ever prove?
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Old 08-05-2022, 06:59 PM
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AlexPeterson AlexPeterson is offline
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Ottertail, MN
Posts: 2,537

Great history!! Thanks.
Alex Peterson
RV6A N66AP 1750+ hours
KADC, Wadena, MN
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Old 08-06-2022, 01:02 AM
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Dan 57 Dan 57 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: LSZF
Posts: 1,027

Thanks for that piece Smokey

I well remember reading that article of yours in the paper RVator… man was I avidly reading and rereading those whilst building my -4…

The highlight of the RV banquet, and by far, was certainly the speech given by Dick. His style hasn’t changed and I’m very happy for that, wishing him good health and good continuation.

As far as the -15 goes, I have no doubt it will sell good. The winning argument is quality here, and I’m sure anyone that got close enough also got convinced. The performance will go along for sure
- ain't the Destination, but the Journey -

RV-6.9 #25685, slider, O-360-A3A (carb/dual Lightspeed II), MTV-12-B, HB-YLL owner & lover
RV-4 #2062 HB-YVZ airframe builder
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Old 08-06-2022, 10:38 AM
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BillL BillL is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 6,739
Default Nothing special? HA!

Originally Posted by smokyray View Post
. . . .
Yet the RV15 has one thing the others don't; Vans Aircraft Inc.
. . . .
Well said Smokey. . . . I believe that is the differentiator that will make the RV15 a huge success.
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Old 08-07-2022, 02:26 AM
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pierre smith pierre smith is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Louisville, Ga
Posts: 7,936
Default …and ‘patents pending’….

Hi Smokey (It’s been a while), I saw the tail wheel with a patent pending label.
Also on the mains! Trust Van’s to lead the way…..again…..😀

Rv10 Sold
46 years ag pilot/CFI
Air Tractor 502/PT-6
Building RV-12, Wings, fuse, emp complete. FWF in progress.
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Old 08-07-2022, 08:20 AM
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Gash Gash is offline
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Goodyear, Arizona
Posts: 987

Smokey that was a great post, thank you. It seems we are in a parallel universe of sorts. It was 22 years ago I was sitting in the 13FS vault at Misawa AB (across the parking lot from the 14FS). Somebody brought a CAFE Foundation test report on the RV-8, and thus began my journey with experimental homebuilts and Vans Aircraft.
Karl, Goodyear, Arizona (KGYR) ATP, CFII
Yak 50 Red Thunder Airshows
=VAF= donor 2022
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Old 08-08-2022, 08:15 AM
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ppilotmike ppilotmike is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 2,017
Default Very eloquent

Well written, Smokey!
Mike Rettig
EAA Chapter 301
VAF Dues Current
RV-10 - Working on engine / prop installation
F-14 (Pedal Plane - Daughter's Project) "Flying"
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Old 08-08-2022, 10:04 AM
Taltruda Taltruda is offline
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 1,320

I heard about that RV-4 VNE story.. that was you?!

I had a MKE overnight in the middle of a 3 day work trip, and didn’t have to show again until later in the day. I rented a car and drove to OSH! Only 4 hours to spend there, I stopped be to see Scrappy and the RV-15. Hanging out by the nose of the 15, I look next to me and it’s Van himself! No one seemed to notice, the plane got all the attention. I got to thank him for creating such a great plane, and told him I own a -4, and although I have a 360 with an aluminum prop, my favorite flying version are the lighter, simpler 320 with a wood prop. He lit up in agreement with ear to ear smiles! Lighter is better!
Las Vegas
RV-4 flying…
RV-8 empenage finished 10-2020

Wings Started.. 11-2020
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