I had a quick business trip to the Portland, OR area this week. Flew down on Wednesday, one day of meetings, and flew back home on Friday. After the trip came to light, I took a look at the map, and saw that the meeting site was only about 15 minutes drive from Van’s Aircraft.

Van's Aircraft I grabbed a 6 AM flight out of Ottawa on Wednesday, so I would arrive in Portland by mid-day. I drove down to Van’s after lunch, and did a factory tour.

RV–7, –8 and –10 QuickBuild fuselages The operation is smaller than you would expect, given how many kits are sold each year. Van does an excellent job of using components on multiple aircraft models, which helps reduce the number of different parts that must be kept in inventory. The efficient use of space helps them keep down the cost of the kits.

The manufacturing area is busy, as they make the vast majority of the aluminum parts that go in kits, or to the QuickBuild factory in the Philippines. Here we see RV–7, –8 and –10 QuickBuild fuselages waiting for an order.

RV–10 cabin tops and RV–8 QuickBuild wingsRV–10 cabin tops and RV–8 QuickBuild wings.

WW-II vintage electric rivet squeezer This WW-II vintage electric rivet squeezer is used to assemble RV–12 wing spars.

Trumatic computer controlled punch Two Trumatic computer controlled punches quickly trim sheet metal parts to shape and punch rivet holes. The repeatable accuracy from these punches is what has allowed Van’s to move to matched hole construction on newer models. My early series RV–8 was the previous generation, with prepunched holes only in the skins - the builder had to carefully align the holes in the skins on the centre of the flanges on the bulkheads and ribs, then drill holes through the skin into the structure. With matched hole construction, the bulkheads and ribs arrive with holes in them. This saves a huge amount of time, and obviates the requirement for jigs.

Prototype RV–14A, RV–6A and RV–10 aircraft The prototype RV–14A, RV–6A and RV–10 aircraft, parked outside the Van’s Aircraft hangar. I’m pondering building an RV–10, as we’d like the option of carrying friends and family with us, so I did an RV–10 demo flight with Ken Scott. The RV–10 has a wide, tall and long cabin, with much room than most four seat aircraft. The visibility from the cockpit is expansive, the stick forces are relatively light, and the performance is excellent. I’d like to find a partner for the RV–10 though, as I don’t want to sell the RV–8, and it makes no sense to own two aircraft.