Van’s RV-15 First Look


As expected, Van’s latest design, the high-wing RV-15, made a well-received debut at AirVenture two weeks ago. KITPLANES magazine caught up with Van’s Greg Hughes for an update on the RV-15. Now that the 15 has been poked and prodded by thousands of showgoers, let’s see what’s next for the company’s first high-wing airplane.

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. Am I the only one who isn’t exactly blown away by this? It looks just like any other high winger out there today, and actually it’s kinda boring. I know Vans isn’t exactly known for making breathtakingly beautiful aircraft, but one could have hoped for at least SOMETHING that makes it stand out from a crowded field, like full cantilever wings for instance. Something, anything. Yawwwwwwn.

    • Yeah, like the RV-6, 9, 10, 12.
      Not the fastest.
      Not the STOL-est.
      Not the most payload.
      Not the most aerobatic.
      Just, a great balance of what each of them is designed to do, and efficient to boot.
      It’s hard to imagine that the -15 won’t do the same thing in the backcountry arena.

    • It’s a big yawn. It’s a bit of everything and a bit of nothing.

      The Glasair Sportsman is a better plane with tail dragger, trike, ski, and float options. The 3rd door to either a +2 for passengers or large cargo bay is a great flexible idea. RV-15 is Meh…

  2. I’ll agree with you on the cantilever wing. Been flying a high wing strutless airplane and boy how nice it is to walk around and look out of.

    • For the same ruggedness, add 50# of structure. Then, for the same performance, add another 50# of engine. Then, for the same ruggedness, add another 25# of landing gear and structure, then, etc., etc., etc…..

      Van’s is renowned for optimization, most notably of the hershey-bar wing. That RV’s outnumbered all other aircraft combined at KOSH testifies to the success of this approach.

      • Otis has it right. It’s worth noting that the Sling High Wing has a cantilever wing, which forced them to place the entire wing structure above the cabin to retain headroom.

  3. Glad to see another good kit from Van.
    While not innovative, it certainly is a nice addition to their product line.
    Their reputation alone makes it desireable for those wanting to build something for unpaved adventuring.

  4. Apparently after the ‘back country’ market, like Murphy was founded on.

    An AOPA article says that Van’s philosophy is that they aim for complete performance, which I take to mean they do all things fine so nothing stands out.

    An author in Kit Planes mag details the design, says it is sized between LSA and Murphy Moose, and has landing gear features for control on rough runways.
    I recommend reading that article.

  5. The RV Cult will purchase kits by the thousands, and thereby ensure that general aviation stays hopelessly mired in decrepit, old technology for another five decades.

    The Cult is comprised by a great bunch of enthusiasts by the way, but the lack of meaningful advancement is depressing. The market is happy to sit safely in the middle of mediocre performance, safety and efficiency.

    • Van’s is doing what they claim to do. They aren’t about making the best planes. They are about making the best kits. Their customer base was earned, and is now a big advantage;however, who has tried to outdo them and failed merely because of their market advantage? Seems to me that builder assist programs from other makers still don’t lead to enough finished planes to compete.

      Another reason they can sell so many is that the certified aircraft makers are not moving the bar. There was a time the certified manufacturers were selling tens of thousands a year. Cessna has instead decided that it will continue to sell the same old planes. There’s your problem. When their competitors actually make better training aircraft, they still end up losing because the industry has made the 172 a standard and the government keeps letting them build the same ones without even having to put in modern safety upgrades. In fact, if they made the stall characteristics safer, the schools and airlines would likely complain!

      At any rate, one reason kit planes sell so well is cost. Unfortunately, it’s often less about the journey than the cost. And why is the cost less in spite of economics telling us the specialized manufacturers should be more efficient and cheaper? Liability, the FAA, and of course labor taxes and mandates which it seems the home of the free is over run with.

  6. Yep, and as a member of that cult I can’t wait for the RV-15 kit to come out. My Dad and I built an early RV-12 kit, I’ve owned an RV-4 and now own an RV-8. I have also owned a Sportsman, and I am really looking forward to the -15.

  7. Hopelessly mired in decrepit, old technology…
    I’d say hopelessly mired in success
    And production of great and beautiful aircraft!!
    Glad the RV-15 is a taildragger
    Got a glimpse of it at Oshkosh
    So many people were looking it over,
    I was unable to get close
    If only I was 40 years younger!
    Guess I’ll have to stick with my C-170A

  8. And still expecting a 1940s era aircraft engine….? Bor….ing…. A flex-fuel engine would make it more palatable… E-10 or kero …or dual fuel even…?

  9. As a BD-4 owner I heartily endorse high strutless wings.
    Yes, light aircraft technology is decrepit. I ran across an article on the Messerschmitt 108. All metal, low wing, retractable, 4 seats, 240 HP. A 1934 airplane. I figured put an IO-540 and modern CS prop on it and you have a perfectly acceptable 2022 airplane. Such great progress in 88 years! (Actually found one for sale in New Zealand a couple of weeks later – with an IO-540 in it!).
    Where’s my two seat Lancair 360 performance in cruise, VTOL? I think this is perfectable doable from mostly off the shelf parts.

    • The 108 is not too far off from a 200hp Arrow from a performance and useful load standpoint, though I bet the fuel burn is quite a bit higher and the ground handling a bit treacherous. That IO-540 cowling does somewhat spoil the look of the airplane, unfortunately.