Dick VanGrunsven, aka Van, has quietly become one of the most successful aircraft designers in the history of American aviation. Others have given more interviews, put out more press releases and received more publicity–but very few have as many airplanes flying. Today, over 8500 RV builders have reported their first flights to Van’s Aircraft (and there are no doubt hundreds more flying who haven’t sent in their “baby pictures”) and new airplanes take to the air on the average of 1.5 times per DAY!


There are several reasons for this kind of prolonged success. Primary among them was Van’s philosophy of “Total Performance”. His idea of a good airplane was one that did as many things well as possible, even if it wasn’t the best in any one category. Besides all-around performance, it had to have excellent handling qualities, visibility and fuel efficiency. Van never had a “hot-rod” mentality, so his designs were not characterized by big engines. He achieved speed and climb rates more gracefully, designing light airframes with low drag and moderate power. How well he met those goals–and how well they resonated with others—is measured by the number of RV-3’s, RV-4’s, RV-6’s, RV-7’s, RV-8’s, RV-9’s and RV-10’s flying and the enthusiastic fervor of the pilots who fly them.


The ultimate expression of a fuel efficient, low drag airplane is the modern sailplane…so its no surprise that Van is an avid and skilled sailplane pilot. High performance sailplanes are rather specialized and expensive, and there are relatively few pilots who want one. Realizing that, Van turned his thoughts toward a simple, light and efficient powered airplane with performance that fell in the range that most private pilots found useful. A new generation of aircraft engines was on the horizon, promising very light weights while still producing useful amounts of power. By using one, he could seat the occupants well forward of the wing, giving them excellent visibility in all directions including almost directly down. By working hard to keep the airplane small, clean and light, the smaller engines could generate speeds at least as good (and probably better) than that of common production airplanes and do it on significantly less fuel.


He worked out his ideas on a small scale model, hand-carved from a piece of firewood. The result was a slightly pug-nosed side-by-side airplane with a “cab-forward” design, a simple constant-chord wing and tricycle landing gear. Painted a hideous tennis-ball green, the model adorned his desk/drafting board for several years.


Finally, a confluence of events pushed him to go ahead with the development of the new idea now labeled (in a fit of originality) the RV-12.
The FAA approved the Light Sport Aircraft Category, allowing aircraft that met certain performance and weight specifications to be certified with less effort and expense. The new rules fit the RV-12 like a glove.
The success of the other RV designs had allowed Van’s Aircraft to expand and acquire modern computer controlled manufacturing and design equipment. The result was extremely accurate parts that could be produced economically, even in low volumes.
Light aircraft engines like the Rotax 912 had matured into mainstream powerplants and were proven in widespread use around the world.

A proof-of-concept prototype aircraft was constructed and test-flown extensively. It did its job, exposing both the good and bad points of ideas incorporated into it: pilots liked the Rotax engine and loved the visibility. Nobody liked the single hand-brake. Refinements and changes were made during an extensive test flight program.


When the RV-12 appeared in its final form, it was marketed as a very, very complete kit. The package included the engine, propeller, and avionics. Wiring harnesses, hoses and every other part were supplied. Besides making the airplane extremely easy for the homebuilder, this level of prefabrication helped achieve another aim–a finished, fly-away RV-12.


The same things that made the kit RV-12 so popular–a standardized airframe with inexpensive parts, easy construction–would help keep the price of the finished product affordable. The airplane would appeal to individuals who were not interested in building and flight schools that needed to operate certified airplanes. Van also envisioned the RV-12 as the backbone of flying clubs—affordable to buy, economical to operate, fun to fly. It should be easy to find partners for an airplane like that!


Since Van’s Aircraft, Inc. was fully involved in producing RV kits, Van looked for a partner who could build the production RV-12’s. Synergy Air fit the bill. Synergy’s founder Wally Anderson had been involved in the RV community for decades, building a pair of award winning RV-6’s and founding a company that educated and assisted other RV builders on their own projects. Synergy Air had the knowledge, skills and facility to produced RV-12’s to the Van’s standard, and even better, they were in the United States. Just ninety miles down the road in Eugene, Oregon, in fact.


The combination of Van’s Aircraft and Synergy Air has resulted in a rare bird: a Light Sport Aircraft designed, manufactured and assembled in America. We hope that it will be flown in countries all over the world.

“In a market where most LSAs are slow sellers, Van’s hit the mark with the RV-12, delivering a model true to the company’s kit-built DNA while bridging the gap between the home-built and certified world.” - Flying Magazine
“Do yourself a favor: If a low-wing, all-metal funship with wonderful handling and a good cruise are on your bucket list, don't fail to check out the Van's RV-12.” - Plane & Pilot Magazine
“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.” - Plane & Pilot Magazine
“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.” - Plane & Pilot Magazine
“With the RV-12, Van’s Aircraft created a light-sport aircraft that hit a sweet spot in the market while earning high marks from owners/builders.”
“The new RV-12 is truly a breakthrough airplane, and it will change the way you think about Van's Aircraft. This factory-built Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) is ready to fly, with no assembly required. So even if you've never touched a wrench, you can own one of these amazing airplanes.” -
“We think the company achieved its goal of building an LSA that offers light and responsive control feel without any bad habits that might get low-time pilots in trouble” - Aviation Consumer


14401 Keil Road NE
Aurora, OR 97002 USA
Tel: 503-678-6545
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