By Randy Dufault
Van's all-new RV-14, which burst onto AirVenture's Phillips 66 Plaza Monday afternoon, is much more than a roomy, two-seat, aerobatic, easy-to-build, attractive kit airplane.
"I think the biggest difference is that this kit is a real advance beyond the kits we've done before," said Ken Scott of Van's Aircraft.
Scott believes that everything the company learned from years of producing RV-7, -8, -9, -10, and -12 kits has now been incorporated into one airframe.
"A lot of the head-scratching over little stuff is going to be gone because we've done it in advance," Scott said. "We do pay attention to the phone calls we get. We know what questions people are asking about and we are trying to anticipate what we can do to make things better."
One prime example of the engineering advance Scott pointed out is the canopy-often the most difficult part of any RV kit.
"On the RV-14 there is only one canopy; there is no slider option, the tip-up is it...so just right there by narrowing it down to one choice, and really working on making that one choice easier to build, I think there will be a significant number of hours saved for the builder.
On the RV-7, the canopy had to be tweaked and adjusted to get it to fit right, a process that could take a week, Scott explained. On the -14, the tip-up is built in sections. They're fitted to the airplane and then riveted together.
"The bubble will come in two pieces and will be pre-trimmed. Probably 50 hours of work right there just vanished," Scott said.
According to Scott, the airplane will be attractive to builders with different goals.
"I think of it either as a robust RV-7, with more room, or a two-seat RV-10," he said. "It can be flown either way and perform both missions. How you use it is kind of up to the guy in the seat. But it's intended to be fully aerobatic, at least within the realm of aerobatics in RVs."
Scott estimated the RV-14 is about 2 to 2-1/2 inches wider than the RV-7. "You sit taller and the canopy rails are lower so you are way up in the bubble so you can really see out of it. All RVs have good visibility, but this one is exceptional."
Scott added that the design has been tested for up to 6g's at a weight of 1,900 pounds. Power comes from Lycoming's 210-hp IO-390 four-cylinder engine, but Scott did not discount a smaller engine.
"I expect a 200-hp IO-360 would work," Scott said. "But it is designed around the 390," he said, noting that all flight tests were done with the larger powerplant. "We've sold a lot of brand new Lycoming engines with our OEM deal and we'll be able to offer the IO-390 at very competitive prices."
Build time is expected to be less than previous Van's models-which Scott explained in terms of percentages, not hours. "Build time for an RV-7 might vary 100 percent from one builder to another. In the standard kit version [for the RV-14], we are just estimating it should be around 70 percent of how long an RV-7 would take."
A quick-build option is planned, but will not be available until complete standard kits are available. A tailwheel version is also coming.
Performance should be similar to the RV-7 with an anticipated maximum cruise speed of 195 mph and a top speed of 205 mph. Empty weight is projected to be 1,240 pounds, with a useful load of 810 pounds. The fuel capacity is 50 gallons.
Prices are not yet set but Scott believes a complete airplane should cost somewhere between $75,000 and $80,000 for most builders. "It could be cheaper. You certainly could make it more expensive if you wanted to," he added.
A wing kit is expected to be available in late September at an approximate cost of $9,000.
Ultimately the complete RV-14 kit will draw on Van's experience with its most recent product.
"The RV-12 was a big step up for us because it is utterly complete," Scott said. "Every wiring harness, every cowl, even the little plastic envelope that holds the airworthiness certificate was designed into the airplane and it comes in the kit. Once you've been through that exercise, you have what you need to build this kit up.
"It is all planned out. You know where every cable run goes, where every clamp goes, and you don't have to puzzle those sorts of things through.
"It comes in the kit, you reach in the box, you pull out the clamp and screw it on where it says to, and you move on. There are hours and hours of stuff like that with the older airplanes that have just gone away.
"When Van was a one-man gang he put together an airplane that you could build and there were problems builders were expected to solve. The kit business has changed and expectations are different. We have a capability for manufacturing now that we never dreamed of 15 years ago. We can think about these things and solve the problems up front."