On November 2nd, I departed San Francisco Airport on route to Eugene, Oregon, to visit Vans and take the Synergy Fundamentals class. The overarching goal of the visit was make sure that this was the direction I wanted to go and that the building process would be something that I would enjoy. In addition, I hoped to learn more about the factory quick-build options, and to evaluate the RV-7 vs. RV-14.
Though most of the week was stormy in Oregon, the rain showers and wind stopped Friday afternoon just in time for the factory tour and demo fligh. I’m a native Oregonian, so I appreciate when the weather cooperates with you plans in early November.
One thing I really appreciate about Vans is that the sales and marketing is very low-key. There is no sales pitch or pressure to buy. The team clearly knows that they have an incredible product and their customers do the selling. However, I couldn’t help but notice the subtle, but suggestive quote discretely affixed to on of the shelving units that in plain sight as you walk out onto the factory floor.
Our tour guide generously lead us through the entire factory floor from the storage and inventory of sheet metal components, CNC sheet-metal punches, metal bending machines, and the storage of quick-build components. Seeing the factory in person, the support and meeting the employees gave me a lot of comfort in taking on this project. As a first-time aircraft builder, it’s intimidating when you look at the project as a whole. But, when you see the quality of the Vans operation it helps put into perspective that over 10,000 of these kits have been assembled into flying machines by mere mortals like myself. Also, they’re able to provide technical support in my time-zone including shipping new parts that I screw-up or talking on the phone. Having someone nearby that designed the kit is a major factor in my decision to go with Vans.
After the tour we waited in the showroom hangar for the demo flight in 7RV. Climbing into the RV-7 is little like strapping the airplane on. Once you’re settled there is more than enough legroom and shoulder room, but it has the feeling of a sports car. Flying was a dream come true. The takeoff and climb performance even with two big boys in the seats was surprising. I won’t bore you with the details, but it felt comfortable, responsive and powerful.
I was hoping to be able to get a ride in the RV-14 but it was in repair. I was able to sit in the demo aircraft and try and compare. To be honest, my brain was probably a little too scattered to do an objective comparison between the two aircraft. Getting into the -14 seemed easier, but once I was sitting, it didn’t seem dramatically different. When I went back and compared the photos my dad took, you can clearly see the difference in the cockpit.
I am still leaning toward the RV-7, but I think I will think about the -14 a little more before I purchase the empenage. I heard many times that the plans and the kit are more advanced and should be easier to build. My rational brain thinks this and the more comfortable cockpit should make the -14 an easy choice. However, my emotional side is still in love with the agility and history of the -7. More on this later I think…
After the tour and flight, I reflected a little about what I learned from the visit. It was both exciting and a little daunting to imagine the process of assembling my own personal version. Needless to say, the tour and flight did little to change my mind about the company and its product.