AirplaneGeeks 376 Van’s Aircraft Founder and CEO Dick VanGrunsven

Vans RV-14

Van’s Aircraft kitplanes, Boeing doesn’t plan to change the Dreamliner for Emirates, NASA is looking for astronauts, the first customer-built SubSonex jet flies, the Pilatus PC-12 business jet also has its first flight, and livestock pass gas.


Photo of Van and RV-10 by Jim Koepnick.

Dick VanGrunsven

Dick (“Van”) VanGrunsven is founder and CEO of kitplane maker Van’s Aircraft. Van has been flying since 1956 and has logged more than 15,000+ hours (the majority of it in airplanes of his own design) and holds CFI, multi-engine, and ATP ratings.

We talk with Van about the kitplane business in general and the Van’s Aircraft planes in particular. Van tells us what it is about the character of the planes that makes them so popular with kit builders and with the pilots who fly them. We also touch on personal jets, the decrease in numbers of amateur built planes, and how the availability of used experimental planes contributes to shrinking sales of new kits. Van also talks about getting good flight instruction in experimental aircraft.

Throughout high school and college Van flew a Cub and a Taylorcraft from the 670 foot grass strip on his parent’s farm. After finishing engineering school and a stint in the Air Force, he purchased a homebuilt 65 hp Stits Playboy, which he rebuilt with a 125 hp Lycoming engine, bubble canopy, Hoerner style wingtips, and an all new set of cantilever aluminum wings to replace the strut-braced wood and fabric originals. Renamed the RV-1, the Playboy flew like a new airplane.

Van flew the RV-1 from 1965 through 1968 but he felt something better was possible. He wanted an airplane that was able to fly in and out of any reasonable airstrip, with enough power and maneuverability to do good basic aerobatics, and cruise as fast as possible. He reluctantly sold the RV-1 and began design and construction of a completely original airplane.

The single-seat RV-3 flew for the first time in August 1971. Van quit his job at a forklift manufacturer and began supplying basic kits for the RV-3.

Over the next forty years, Van’s Aircraft became the acknowledged leader in the kit aircraft world.  New aircraft, from the RV-4 through the Light Sport RV-12 and now the “widebody” RV-14,  have been introduced and each has proven successful in the marketplace. For most of that time, Van was chief engineer, head designer, and CEO of the company.

For homebuilt resources, see the Van’s Aircraft homepage and Facebook page, the independent Van’s Air Force site, and the EAA homepage.

Guest Co-Host

Mark Newton in his RV-6

Mark Newton in his RV-6

Mark Newton is an Australian private pilot who started learning to fly in 1999, after a weather diversion as a passenger in a Grumman Traveller light aircraft wound-up as an unexpected overnight stay at a gliding field. Over the years Mark has flown 24 types of gliders, and he holds a glider instructor rating.

Gliders in Australia don’t require pilot licenses, so Mark didn’t start training for his PPL until 2008. He bought a well-built RV-6 in 2011, and enjoys using it for traveling to distant parts of the country, aerobatics, the odd “$100 hamburger,” and installing “RV-grins” on new aviators as part of their first taste of flight, including several who have gone on to gain pilot licenses of their own.


Boeing says will not make changes to Dreamliner stretch for Emirates

Emirates has said they will decide in 2016 if they will order almost 100 planes, either the Boeing 787-10 or the Airbus for A350-900. Emirates needs long-range planes that can operate in hot climates. Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth says, “The plan is not to change the aircraft, we really like what we have.”

Wanted: Astronauts. Got the right stuff?

NASA announced that by summer 2017 they will begin recruiting a new astronaut class of 8 to 14 people. This is an item that Yong-Lim Foo should pay attention to, our listener from Singapore. There are some basic requirements: You have to be between 62 and 75 inches tall and have a military, science, or technical background. You could end up on the International Space Station, traveling to the moon, or maybe even going to Mars. For more information, see

First Customer-Built SubSonex Personal Jet Flies

Redge Greenberg, of Durango, Colorado, received the first SubSonex kit (S/N JSX0003) in February and is now the first customer to build and fly the SubSonex Personal Jet. The SubSonex is sold as a Quick Build Kit only. Greenberg has 4,500-plus hours in numerous aircraft and says, “…I never got the chance to fly a jet. I first saw the prototype of the SubSonex at Oshkosh, and followed the development for over a year. When Sonex offered the jet as a kit, I was first in line. Like my RV8, the SubSonex is aerobatic, but the Sonex company also included a ballistic parachute for extra safety.”

Swiss-built business jet to compete against Cessna Citations

Pilatus Aircraft is entering the business jet market with its six-passenger PC-24, which had its first flight in May. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2017, the second half of that year for U.S. deliveries. This will compete with the Cessna Citation business jets.

No Evidence Farting Livestock Caused Emergency Landing, Airline Says

The Aviation Herald reported that a Singapore Airlines plane with 2,186 sheep onboard diverted to Bali after “exhaust gasses and manure produced by the sheep” caused the smoke detector to go off. The airline says there is no evidence the livestock were responsible.

The Australia News Desk

Across the Pond

Pieter visits the Science Museum in London to show what visitors can see from an aviation perspective in the center of London. He gives a quick review of the aviation, aerospace and space exhibits on display and talks about other potential aviation sites to visit in the capital and elsewhere in the UK. The Science Museum is free and has a couple of hours worth of aviation exhibits if you want to slowly browse. If you want to speed around you can do them in less than an hour. However, the reset of the Museum will attract some attention as well and worthy of a whole day if you can spare it. Pieter also suggests making contact with him, if you are visiting and he (and his network) will help point you in the direction of aviation sites to visit in both London as well as the rest of the UK.


Barrage balloon cuts power to Seattle and causes air raid scare on January 12, 1942

Benfica safety video with Emirates:

Do you know what this clock is? Can you explain the markings? Leave any information in the comments.


Flying 101 paint job:

flying 101 paint job

Garmin AOA indicator calibration, via listener Craig:


Photos by Neil from San Francisco Fleet Week:

nrphotography L-27

nrphotography L-29-2

nrphotography L-27-2


Photo of RV-14 copyright Van jones photos.

Photo of Van and RV-10 by Jim Koepnick.

Opening and closing music courtesy Brother Love from the Album Of The Year CD. You can find his great music at


8 thoughts on “AirplaneGeeks 376 Van’s Aircraft Founder and CEO Dick VanGrunsven

  1. Adam Greco

    I work for the Federal Aviation Administration at the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City,New Jersey.Will someone please tell me about the United Airlines clock as I am dying to know.I teach at 2 local colleges and I sometimes stump my students with little known information about aviation.Please tell me what that clock is?

    Thank you,

    Adam Greco

  2. Jerry

    My haphazard guess on the clock face is like those found in a train or trolley station — something with tracks. Perhaps in this case, it is three gates/tracks (P, C, M) or six (PN, PS, CW, CE, MW, ME) represented by the rings outside the normal clock numerals. That part eludes me.

    The letters like paired together like SL=PD and PD=SL from :50 to :52 probably represent destination airports and departures. The AT&SF railroad used letters like that. If my guess is on the mark

    :50 to :52 was between SL = Slaton, TX and PD = Pedernal, NM (e.g. arrive :50, depart :52)
    :55 to :57 was between SL = Slaton, TX and OA = Oakdale, LA
    :20 to :22 was between SI = Silsbee, TX and St. Francis, TX
    :20 to :22 was between SL = Slaton, TX and CG = Clinton, OK

    Anyway, this type of clock predates me but if you look at old train clocks, they have similar grids paired with the normal clock face so I’m pretty confident that the purpose is to show some regularly scheduled service between cities. Those abbreviations I listed above for AT&SF all cluster around Texas in the USA which seems amazingly coincidental.

    I think it’s possible that we’re looking at a clock in a train station but perhaps sold by “UNITED AIR LINES.” I don’t think I’d automatically assume the transport medium was an airplane just because the phrase AIR LINES was on the face, especially due to the coincidence of the city abbreviations I mentioned. Further, if my theory on the meaning of the times is true (:50 arrival and :52 departure), that seems too short for an airplane to turnaround with passenger boarding and the frequency (hourly?) seems too frequent for airline traffic.

    Anyway, this is all a guess…I’d suggest asking old railroad guys instead of plane guys.


    P.S. I don’t know that I’d read too much into the space between “AIR” and “LINES.” One can search that phrase and see it as “United Airlines” or “United Air Lines” and I think the former evolved from the latter. See on 11/4/1942.

  3. Templar50401

    To me it looks like the Eastern time zone would be the inner ring, the clock face itself, the next ring out would be central time zone, mountain next and then pacific time zone. I have no idea how it functions though.

  4. AviatorJ

    Something of interest, I was listening to this PodCast while working on my Vans RV-10….

    Also on the B2 picture, last month I was flying over Whiteman AFB in Missouri and looked down to see a B2 take off under me, turn around and head the other direction. Was amazing!

  5. Don McCallister

    What is the charge for listing my RV-6A to sell??? I have lost my medical and thinking of placing
    it with one of the advertiser.

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