APR 2015

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

Issue link: http://experimenter.epubxp.com/i/492505

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4 Vol.4 No.4 / April 2015 HOMEBUILDER'S CORNER ON MARCH 24, 2015, Airbus announced that it had delivered its 9,000th aircraft—quite an achievement. Out of pure coinci- dence, Van's Aircraft will be hitting its 9,000th fl ying aircraft this month as well. Now, that is an achievement! It is interesting to note that Airbus made its fi rst delivery in 1974; Van's Aircraft was founded in 1972 and began selling a few parts for the RV-3. That is about where the similarities end. Note that I said fl ying RVs, not kit sales. For Airbus to reach the 9,000 milestone, it currently employs 58,000 people to pro- duce its aircraft. Van's, on the other hand, relies on 60 employees, and the rest is done through "volunteer" labor; that's us homebuilders. Sure, Airbus has a lot more employees, but I think it is safe to say it can't match the passion we homebuilders put into our aircraft. Although there are lots of airplane kit companies, Van's is far and away the leader in sales. If you review the FAA's registry of aircraft, Van's has more aircraft on the list than the other top 10 kit companies combined! The fact that Van's holds such a large percentage of the market is truly amazing given the number of excellent designs available to homebuilders. For airlines, there are basically two choices: Airbus or Boeing. Homebuilders are blessed with dozens of choices. A great aircraft design by itself doesn't make a successful kit company. You have to be able to produce kits, support the builder, manage inventory, etc. I've often referred to Van's Aircraft as a 40-year overnight success. For many years, Dick "Van" VanGrunsven was designing aircraft, building kits, and keeping his costs in line to provide a tremendous value for the dollar. If you've ever met Van, you'll realize pretty quickly that he is an "all steak and no sizzle" kind of guy. It is safe to say the tremendous success that Van's Aircraft has experienced didn't come about through slick marketing. I would imagine he spent very little on marketing his aircraft as a percentage of his overall operations cost. Instead he let the satisfi ed customer with the "RV grin" do his selling. Now, 40 years later, "Van's Air Force" is his best salesman. The RVs do everything really well and have no bad habits, but they aren't the best at anything. They're not the fastest air- planes; they don't have the best STOL performance; and they aren't the best aerobatic mounts. However, RVs are really good at all of these things, and it is the excellent combination of these traits that makes them so popular. Van's has four kit designs with more than 1,000 units fl y- ing—the RV-4, RV-6/6A, RV-7/7A, and RV-8/8A—and another model, the RV-9/9A, has about 964 aircraft fl ying. There are more than 2,500 RV-6/6As fl ying, making it the single most successful homebuilt design in history. Next year, 2016, will mark the 30th anniversary of the RV-6 design. EAA is already planning to have a big celebration at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 to mark that anniversary. I'm proud to say that EAA has recognized Dick VanGrunsven's accomplishments over the years. In 1980, Van was awarded EAA's August Raspet Memorial Award for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of light aircraft design. In 1999, we inducted Dick VanGrunsven into the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame. The EAA AirVenture Museum houses a number of Van's prototype aircraft, and Dick cur- rently serves on the EAA board of directors. On behalf of EAA, I'd like to thank Dick VanGrunsven, Van's Aircraft employees, and the many RV builders and pilots for their part in advancing the homebuilt movement. Van's Aircraft is an amazing success story! Van's Aircraft … 9,000 aircraft fl ying! BY CHARLIE BECKER Dick VanGrunsven on the fl ightline at Oshkosh in the 1970s. Photography courtesy of EAA Archives

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