Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Full-Metal Funship

There’s a reason the RV-12, and all Van’s Aircraft designs, sell like hotcakes

Mitch Lock is the northeastern dealer for Van's Aircraft and built his RV-12 from an ELSA kit in 555 hours.
"You've got the RV grin on your face," says my genial demo host Mitch Lock, and indeed, I do. We've just launched from his home airport of St. Mary's Municipal, not far from Annapolis, Md. The weather has been beastly for days: hot, humid, kinda Vietnam jungle-like. It's before 9 a.m. and already well into the 80s. So, why am I feeling so good?

Of course, it's the airplane. After a takeoff that was as difficult as pulling away from the curb in your car, we're climbing out—at a Vy of 75 knots, mind you—at about 800 fpm. Considering our combined weight (400 pounds), full fuel (20 gallons) and the high-density altitude, that's plenty strong.

"On a cool day, solo, I get 1,100 feet per minute, easy," says Lock. Van's aircraft spec: 900 fpm. It's refreshing when companies make conservative performance claims.

The cockpit is comfortable. Cooling air flows nicely from the side vents. But mostly, I'm happy because the RV-12 is simply the kind of airplane you only want to climb out of when your physiology demands a break.

The control response is light, nimble, solid, fighter plane-ish, and so natural and balanced, you feel like you've flown this bird all your life. Banking the 26-foot, nine-inch wings brings virtually no adverse yaw: Other than during climb and power-off descent, this is a feet-on-the-floor airplane, and yet it's so lively.

Mitch Lock and his daughter Victoria, who loves to fly with Daddy.
LSA as a category has well-earned its reputation for well-designed, forgiving, easy-flying aircraft. Still, every now and then, I have the pleasure to meet an LSA that stands out. The Remos GX was one, as were the Pipistrel line, the Bristell and Tecnam's entire fleet.

But, the RV-12 may be the most good-natured, docile, yet sporty LSA I've flown yet. It feels both sweet and a little sassy.

A Pedigree Bloodline
Van's Aircraft, named after founder, designer and chief cook/bottle washer Richard VanGrunsven (aka Van), has sold wildly popular Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) kits (8,000-plus built since 1972, thousands more under way) and created an entire aviation subculture in the process. Just how popular is the RV line of aircraft?

Exhibit A: Although the company introduced the RV-12 prototype as an E-LSA in 2009, just as the economic recession was hitting its malevolent stride, deposits immediately flowed in. To date, more than 300 of the RV-12 kits shipped, and more than 750 sub kits started. You can get one, including engine, for around $70,000 and build it in about a year.

Labels: LSAs

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