Way back in 1970 Richard “Van” van Grunsven had the vision to create an aircraft that was not only affordable but could be built and operated by the average pilot. Three years later the first kits were leaving the factory, little did Van know that the numbers would reach the amazing level of three new RV’s being flown for the first time every two days.
It all started with the RV-3, a single-seater, the outstanding performance and reasonable cost intermediately resonated with the general aviation community and soon would-be customers were crying out for a two-seater version, as a result, the RV-4 was born.
In the late 1980s, the market shifted toward touring, rather than pure sport, aircraft. In response, Van’s developed the side-by-side RV-6 and later the RV-6A, a nose-wheel version of the RV-6.
In 1995, Van’s introduced the legendary RV-8 which over the years has become one of the most popular kitplanes of all time. The RV-8 was specifically designed to address all the customer complaints about the RV-4. With a much larger cockpit and two baggage compartments, more panel space, and the option for more power. With 200 hp, it was the fastest RV yet, but it still handled like a true RV.
Since the RV-8 went on sale 25 years ago, 3900 RV-8 kits have sold and 1560 of which have been completed and flown in countries from all over the world including many in South Africa.
When the prototype RV-8 arrived at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Oshkosh Airshow in 1995, the reaction surprised even Van. No longer having to choose between sport or cross-country flying, prospective buyers lined up for order forms. In addition, the new computer-controlled machine tools at Van’s factory in Oregon made it possible to provide parts that cut the building time by 40% compared to the RV-4.
The RV-8 is renowned for its fighter-like feel of centre-line seating, no wonder so many of them have been painted is Mustang like schemes. The RV-8’s almost-perfect control balance and harmony and the excellent visibility make aerobatics a delight. The RV-8 is fully aerobatic and unlike the RV-4 a passenger can be taken along for an aerobatic sortie.
Last Saturday RV-8 owners gathered at Kitty Hawk just outside of Pretoria to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this remarkable little aircraft. The plan was to put as many RV-8’s in the sky as possible but unfortunately due to the tardiness of our regulator many of the aircraft and pilots that planned to join were grounded as they waited for either ATF’s or Licence renewals.
Eight of these thoroughbred machines managed to get to Kitty Hawk and put on a beautiful formation flypast, the aircraft that took part ranged in age from very early Serial number 250 to some of the most recently built specimens in the world. The formation was led by Pierre Gouws, who led the RV Raptors in the world formation aerobatics championships in China, and included legends like Glen Warden, Martin Louw, Derek and Nigel Hopkins.
At the rate that RV-8 kits are being sold and completed, I’m sure that we will be treated to many more years of RV-8’s gracing the skies. The RV-8 is truly a stunning aircraft and we must all thank Richard van Grunsven for sharing his vision and passion with the world.
Capacity: one passenger
Wing area: 10.8m²
Empty weight: 508kg
Gross weight: 816kg
Fuel capacity: 160L
Powerplant: Lycoming IO-360 four cylinder, horizontally opposed piston aircraft engine with fuel injection, 200 hp
Maximum speed: 192kn
Cruise speed: 180kn at 75% power at 8000 feet
Stall speed: 50kn
Range: 20nmi at 55% power and 8000 feet
Service ceiling: 22,500ft
Rate of climb: 1,900ft/min