Back in the mid 1960’s, amateur-built experimental aircraft were mostly tube and rag (or wood) aircraft that allowed their creators to fly, but not very far or very fast…or at times, very well. In 1965, an engineer and pilot by the name of Richard VanGrunsven decided that we could do better than that. Starting with a Stits Playboy airframe that was originally built in 1955, Van created a new aircraft with aluminum cantilevered wings, more powerful engine and a bubble canopy; He called his creation the “RV-1” and thus began the proud lineage of aircraft which we all now enjoy. Van flew that airplane for about 600 hours in three and a half years, starting with a structured test program to see if his ideas had proven fruitful, and then taking in on cross-country trips as far away as Rockford Illinois to show those ideas to others. Eventually, he sold the aircraft and began work on his first all-metal, all-Vans aircraft – the RV-3. Thus began the story of the Van’s Aircraft Corporation. The RV-1 faded into the past as the kits for the new airplane (and those designs that followed) rolled out the door.
Many never knew that the RV-1 existed, and those that did generally lost track of it. But the airplane was still around, a succession of owners keeping it in the east Texas area for the intervening years. From 1991 until the present time, it belonged to a pilot in Baytown, Texas, snug up against the shore of Galveston Bay, its presence and heritage un-noticed by all but a few. Now, for the first time since 1968, the airplane has resurfaced in the hands of the RV community. Our Community. And something special is about to happen!
A couple of years ago, a few local RV’ers began a project aimed at “the preservation of the RV-1, and the reconnection of the airplane with its creator, Richard VanGrunsven.” That was the simple and straightforward mission statement that we put on paper. And now, both goals are within reach. The aircraft has been acquired with the intent to restore the aircraft to flying condition, display it at fly-ins from coast to coast, and eventually to donate it to the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. With Van’s approval and support, we are going to make this a gift from the past to the future from the RV community. It is our intent to involve as many members of the RV community as possible in the restoration of this gift. This is not going to be something that you only read about in the pages of a magazine – we want people to feel involved in a way that allows as many as possible to touch the airplane, to see it fly, and to share the experience with others.
Space has been made available for the restoration work at RV Central, a building and completion center located at Hicks Airfield near Fort Worth, Texas. With a wealth of resources, experience and tools available, the aircraft will be gone through carefully to make it airworthy and reliable for the VFR flying to come. A non-profit corporation, the “Friends of the RV-1” has been organized to manage the project and see it through to the museum and beyond. A web site is under construction that will provide up to the minute status on the project, future plans, and information as to how you can participate. There will be a need for specific talents, skills, and donations – this will be a community effort!
Sharing the Airplane – a Season of Flight
Our goal in the restoration of the RV-1 is to make it a flying aircraft once again – and then to share it with homebuilders and aviation fans across the country by bringing it to fly-in events throughout the 2012 season. Beginning at Sun ‘n Fun and extending across the summer, the airplane will visit as many events as possible to allow those who have helped bring it back from the shadows touch and experience this unique piece of aviation history. It is our hope that Van himself will attend many of the events with the aircraft, helping to share the stories of its past, and the designs yet to come. The season will culminate at Oshkosh 2012 with the presentation of the aircraft to the EAA museum.
A Permanent Home
Restoration to flying condition, sharing the airplane with builders across the country – what could be better than that? Well, the permanent display of the RV-1 at a place where generations to come will be able to see it – the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin! The progenitor of the most popular Kitplane ever produced deserves to be shared and enjoyed by everyone, and in this location, we are sure that we can achieve that goal. With donations of support from the community, the RV-1 will take its place among the many historic aircraft that have been part of Experimental Aviation over the years. The hundreds of thousands of people who attend AirVenture every year will have the chance to explore the history of the RV line from its very beginning by examining this special plane “up close and personal”.