A Brief History of the RV-1

Review of the Log Books:

RV1-Aircraft_LogThe logs begin on 10/8/1955, and the cover page of the logbook lists the aircraft as a Stits SA3A and the engine as a Continental A-35. The first log entry lists “12 Landings” and a total time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. The accumulated total flight time is also 3 hours and 15 minutes, so we can only assume that this was the first flight date of the airplane – or at least, the start of the logs. The “start” date in the logbook is actually 10/3/1955, so perhaps it was licensed a few days earlier. There is an entry in the log on 4/11/1056 saying that it was issued an experimental airworthiness certificate, so I am not sure if it flew without a certificate before that, or that was the norm at that time. All early log entries are by the builder, Raymond S. Benckendorf of Streator, Illinois.

Minor adjustments and tweaks were made in July of 1956 by the builder – new wing fairings were made, and the wing struts adjusted.

The airplane was repainted with Butyrate dope in 1957 (sometime). The builder had accumulated about 78 hour’s total time by mid-1958. The logs show a combination of both local and cross-country flights, mostly in the Midwest. There is at least one trip to Rockford, Ill shown in 1958. Operations Limitations were issued in August of 1958, according to a log entry – not sure if this was an update, or the rules started requiring them at this time. There is a note that looks like a ferry permit issued in 1959 (but not dated), followed by an inspection note on 8/27/1959. A few more log entries were made in 1960 – one showing 99 hours and 55 minutes total time, followed by an inspection entry on the 5th of October.

The next log entry shows that the airplane was “removed from storage and is to be repaired and modified”, with notes that the wing ribs are to be repaired. This is dated on 1 May 1963. This is followed by a September 1963 entry saying that the tail surfaces are inspected and OK to be covered. I am assuming that this is when the aircraft was obtained by R. VanGrunsven and he began his modification program. There is a long and detailed log entry dated 8 Nov 1963, made by Richard VanGrunsven detailing wing rib replacement, recovering of the ribs, modification of the fuselage to a bubble canopy configuration, the addition of a fiberglass fuel tank aft of the seat, and the enlargement of the tail surfaces. Wheel fairings were also added. This entry also lists the installation of a Lycoming O-290-G converted ground power unit engine, new engine mount, and a Sensenich M74DM prop with a diameter of 68” and a pitch of 64”. A molded fiberglass cowl (of “original design similar to Goodyear class midget racers”) was built. Exhaust system and muffle r similar to a J3 was added. This long entry was signed by Richard VanGrunsven, and he declared that the airplane had 100 hours on it “for the purpose of FAA recertification. He lists himself as the manufacturer, and I presume that it became known as the VanGrunsven RV-1 at this point, no longer a Stits Playboy.

Van’s initial test flight was on 11/27/1963, followed at a rapid pace by many more which added 75 hours to the logbook by May of 1964. At this point, some cowling modifications were made and a new spinner was installed.  More test flying followed.

Van flew the airplane with nothing but routine log entries through the end of Logbook number 1, with the last flight in that book shown on 10 Sept 1964 and a total flight time of 299 hours and 30 minutes.

The front page of Logbook number 2 lists the aircraft as a VanGrunsven RV-1, serial number 171, manufactured on 8/16/1965 with a maximum weight of 1085 lbs. Interestingly enough, the first several pages of flying listed in the book start in September of 1964 and continue until April 25th of 1965 (without comments) when the aircraft was dismantled for modification. Several pages are then given over to detailed descriptions of the modifications performed to install aluminum cantilevered wings. Landing gear was modified to spring steel gear legs at the same time. The first flight in this new configuration appears to have been made on 8/20/1965, so perhaps there is some ambiguity on when van began referring to this as the “RV-1” (judging by the date on the front page of the book). The next several pages of the book detail flight testing, and on 9/5/1965 a “Pilot Familiarization flight” by G. D. VanGrunsven – looks like Van’s brother got to fly it that day for an hour. It is interesting that I don’t see his name again in the book.

Flying continued without comment, accumulating a total of 1bout 450 hours at which time the Aux fuel tank was removed from behind the pilot seat, and this area was converted for baggage use. Again, flying continued without comment until a routine inspection was logged on 9/7/1966 – the airplane had 555 hours at that time. The inspection was performed by Van, signed as the “Manufacturer”. A certificate of airworthiness was issued the next day by the FAA, so again, I am assuming that new C of A’s were issued annually for Experimentals in those days. Logbook number 2 ends on 11/27/1966 with 574 hours on the aircraft.

Logbook number 3 lists an empty weight of 738 lbs and a Gross weight of 1065 on the cover page. The engine is the same O-290-G that Van installed when he bought it, and shows that as 125 hp. It also shows a wing area of 90 square feet, a span of 20 feet, and a length of 18’ – very similar to the RV-3 of today. The prop was listed as a 68/71, so it is possible the prop was re-pitched at an earlier time.

Routine flying with lots of logged cross-country destinations are listed in book number 3 with nothing but routine maintenance along the way. It looks like Van repacked the wheel bearings in September of 1967 and headed for Rockford for the first time – I presume this was for the EAA fly-in. He made numerous local flights during the week in Rockford.

In September, Van installed an aluminum crankshaft extension and a 22 gallon forward fuselage fuel tank (replacing a 13 gallon forward tank and an 8.5 gallon aft tank – but this is confusing, because I thought the aft tank was removed previously). He also lists that the oil cooler and lines were removed at this time, along with numerous entries that look like a routine annual inspection. It doesn’t show that the cooler was reinstalled however. Total time on the airplane was about 709 hours.

In October of 1968, Van remolded the bottom cowl to remove the carb and oil cooling intakes. He modified the air box to bring air in from the right rear baffle area on the engine “similar to that of a Piper Comanche”. The exhaust stacks were also reworked at that time, and the annual inspection was performed. It looks like Van liked to do modifications during the annuals each fall. The plane had 870 hours on it at that time.

The front page of logbook number 4 shows all the data previously given, plus a limiting airspeed of 190 mph. It looks as if the engine was the same as installed before at the time the front page was filled out, but was later crossed out and replaced with a Lycoming o-290-D2, serial number 2634 with a HP rating of 140 @ 2800 RPM and 135 @ 2600 rpm. This may have been the engine change that we were told about by Ted Filer, but there is no way of knowing for sure without asking him, as the change is not dated, and no logbooks were kept after 1991 by Mr. Filer. It is possible that this is the only notation he made during the time he owned the plane, and he simply wanted a record of the engine change.

The airplane was sold to R. K. Gavin of Dallas, Texas on 10/26/1968 and ferried to Addison form “Airpark”. We don’t know which airpark, but from the end of the previous logbook, it is clear that Van flew the airplane from Oregon to the Dallas area for the sale. The first thing done by the new owner was a “Mandatory Stits Modification” on the front spar tubes of the stabilizers. The seat was rebuilt, the wings removed and inspected (and replaced) and an extensive inspection performed. Of note was repair to the engine baffling and replacement of fuel lines.

On 11/15/1972, there is a note in the logs about a “Test hop after engine overhaul – OK”, so we can assume that an overhaul was performed about that time. There was a log entry of a flight only six days before that, and it is hard to believe that an overhaul was performed in that short of a time. But that’s what the logs say.

New Cleveland wheels and brakes were installed on 10/20/1976, as well as a “Lake Carb”. Ownership of the airplane was transferred to J. W. Kearns  of Dallas, Texas on 9/6/1977, and the Lake carb was removed and replaced with the original MA 4 SPA carb right away.

On 6/1/1981, the O-290 that Van installed was removed and replaced with an O-290-G with serial number 2634 that had 36:50 run time on it. This corresponds to the entry on the front page of book 4 – it still does not account for the engine change mentioned by Ted Filer, so it will be interesting to check the serial number of the currently installed engine.

There is a note on the front page of book number 4 that the aircraft was sold to Jimmy Lee Stevens of Houston, Texas on 2/17/1982, and another that the airplane was sold to Ted Filer of Mont Belvieu,, Texas on 8/25/1989, but there are no other log entries during this timeframe. The final entry in the logs is dated 5/18/1991 to record a normal annual inspection and signed by an A&P. There are not further entries, and Mr. Filer told us that he did not keep any, nor did he do (or record) any inspections after that date.

Mr. Filer did, however, verbally state that in the time he owned the airplane, he replaced the bubble canopy with a new RV-3 canopy because the old one was cracked. AT that time, he removed the “thick, heavy fiberglass canopy skirt” and rebuilt the canopy with thin sheet-metal skirts, one on each side. He didn’t like the original skirt because it blocked his vision forward, and he did not put any type of forward skirt on his new installation at all. He was never satisfied with his workmanship on the metal skirt pieces.

He also said that he had moved the oil cooler from underneath the oil sump to the current position on the aft left baffle (although the logs would indicate it had no oil cooler after Van removed it). He also built a plenum on the top of the engine in order to get the cylinder head temperatures down. The plenum was of his own design. He mentioned that he glassed over a NACA scoop on the center of the lower cowl, which raises a few questions about the original configuration, since Van had also mentioned that he had changed the lower cowl air intake. The airplane has no generator or alternator, and we do not know if this was the original configuration or if these were removed at some point. There is a battery, and it must be charged on the ground – there is an electric starter. He also mentioned that he replaced the fuel tank at one point due to leaks caused by corrosion – the new one was custom-built (we assume to match the original).

Mr. Filer experienced significant engine problems which he described as the engine suddenly beginning to run rough after it warmed up. He related things that he did to try and fix this, including:

Replacing “the entire motor” (we think this means the engine, but not accessories)
Trying a different carburetor off of his Cardinal (supposedly known good)
Overhauling the Bendix Mags and then replacing them entirely with different units
Adding an electric boost pump
Adding a pressurizing air vent to the fuel tank

Sometime around 2007, Mr. Filer had a landing mishap at Dunham Field (Crosby, Texas), in which the landing gear and propeller were damaged. The propeller was replaced with the current prop, and the damage repaired, at least to the point where the airplane could be flown back to RWJ airport.

This represents the entire history of the airplane as we know it today. The wings were removed on 13 March 2011 in order to move the airplane to Ellington Field for the new owner and co-founder of Friends of the RV-1, Mr. R.E. “Ernie” Butcher.

Summarized by Paul F. Dye upon review of existing logbooks and related information.

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