Five Things You May Not Know About Van’s Aircraft

by Gayle Gilham on April 30, 2018

in Featured Member

Image of two planes in flight

The initials “RV” usually mean Recreational Vehicle, and while that may be an apt description of the RV line of kit aircraft, in this case they are also the initials of designer and founder of Van’s Aircraft, Richard VanGrunsven. Did you know…

  1. Usually known as Dick or “Van,” Richard VanGrunsven learned to fly in 1956 at the age of 16. After earning an engineering degree and while serving in the Air Force for a three year tour, Van purchased a 65 horsepower Stits Playboy airplane. He eventually redesigned and rebuilt the plane for better performance, renaming it the RV-1. And by 1972, Van’s Aircraft was founded in Reedville, Oregon, selling plans and build-your-own kits for the newly designed RV-3.
  2. Eventually the company grew and moved to North Plains, Oregon. But it soon exhausted available opportunities there, too. So in 2000 Van’s Aircraft moved to a new 60,000 square foot facility near the small town of Aurora, Oregon and remains based there today at the Aurora State Airport (KUAO). Now employee-owned, the company employs over 60 people (and dozens more in sub-contract roles), keeping them busy manufacturing several hundred complete aircraft kits a year.
  3. According to the company, virtually no skill is required to build an RV, as everything a builder needs to know can be learned “on the job,” by carefully studying the builder’s manual or by seeking advice from other RV builders. A more important requirement than skill is the right frame of mind. Building an airplane requires dedication, commitment, a willingness to learn and the ability to make and correct occasional mistakes.
  4. On average, it takes about 1200-1400 hours to complete a Standard Kit, typically over an 18-24 month period. Of course some kits never get finished, and that’s where dedication and commitment come into play. Van’s also sells a QuickBuild Kit that cuts the build-time by about 35%. In addition to purchasing the airframe kit, the builder must supply the engine, prop, instruments, avionics, upholstery and paint. Much of this is available through Van’s. For builders wanting to keep costs to a minimum, it’s possible to build a simple RV for around $45,000, but that’s doing some careful shopping, accepting a used engine, and painting it yourself.
  5. Van’s RVs are now flying in at least 45 different countries and kits have shipped to about 60. From a small farm in Oregon, these wonderful airplanes have achieved a global following. Not because of any superior marketing campaign, but simply because they fly so well and bring so much pleasure to their builders.

Cascade is proud to feature this member, a company that meets challenges with honesty, practicality, diligence and imagination.

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