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Kitty Hawk Celebrate 50 years of Vans Rvs

By Andre Venter

Kitty Hawk Aerodrome just outside Pretoria Celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Vans RV range of aircraft on heritage day. The annual RV Day has been held for the last 12 years but this year was a special one. Frank van Heerden and his team decided that this year the day will be all about the aircraft that everyone loves so much, no commercial activity was allowed, just a celebration of the Vans RV.

Dion Raath was the first to arrive and also the first to receive a limited edition Kitty Hawk 50th anniversary cap. Dion had to leave shortly after arriving in order to get into Waterkloof before the cut-off time as he was scheduled to join the rest of the Raptors team for a display at AAD 2022. The caps were kindly sponsored by Robin Coss whose name has become synonymous with quality-built Vans RVs. As always the breakfasts were sponsored by Sport Plane Builders who are based at Wonderboom and have gained a reputation for brilliant work on all types of aircraft, especially RVs.

A total of 51 aircraft flew in for the day, a rather poor turnout considering previous years, 40 of the visiting aircraft were from the RV stable. The poor response could be due to a number of reasons, the biggest being Africa Aerospace and defence which was being held at Waterkloof and as a result, the Pinedenne route was closed forcing pilots to either fly around FAWK airspace via Wonderboom to the north or via Brakpan to the east. Heidelberg airfield was also hosting their annual train race fly-in and of course, the nasty fuel price has sadly kept a few aviators on the ground.

Founder Richard van Grunsven established Van's Aircraft, Inc. in 1970. The first aircraft kits were offered in 1972. Since then the company has produced the most successful line of kit aircraft — ever. Thousands of RV kits have been completed and flown, with increasing numbers under construction. Obviously, many more will be flying soon. Over the last several years, new aircraft have flown at a rate of 1.5 per day!

First came the single-seat RV-3. Its outstanding performance and reasonable cost gained it an enthusiastic following. Customers soon demanded a two-place aircraft with similar characteristics so Van’s responded with the RV-4. Tandem seating provided lower drag, superior visibility, and better overall sportiness. The RV-4 became an immediate favourite. 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. A tri-gear version, the RV-6A, was soon developed to better fill the needs of the modern pilot.

In 1995, Van’s introduced the RV-8 and the tri-gear RV-8A, a new tandem design. Roomier than the RV-4, it had two baggage compartments, more panel space, and the option for more power. With 200 hp, it was the fastest yet, but it still handled like an RV. In 1999, Van flew a new aircraft emphasizing flying simplicity and efficiency over speed and aerobatics. The side-by-side RV9A combined an RV-6 cabin with a completely new wing. Intended as an efficient, fun “weekend” flying machine, the RV-9A turned out to be an excellent cross-country aircraft as well. A tailwheel version, the RV-9, was introduced in 2002.

In 2001 Van’s introduced the side-by-side RV-7/7A — a much easier-to-build successor to the RV-6. Wing span, useful load, and fuel capacity were all increased. Engine options expanded to include the 200-hp Lycoming. The RV-7/7A flies much like the RV6 or RV-8, with the same excellent handling and aerobatic capabilities. In the following years the RV-10, RV-12, RV-14 and most recently the high wing RV-15 were added.

Big thanks must go to Nigel Musgrave for taking up the duty as safety officer for the event, ATNS supplied two ATCs, Benji from Lanseria and Vickie from Wonderboom their contribution to events like this are always welcome. Dawie Pretorius the Airfield Manager took on the function of MC and DJ for the day a job he seemed to enjoy thoroughly. Congratulations to Frank for once again putting together a very enjoyable fly-in see you at the next RV day.

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