Since the announcement that Van’s Aircraft is entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the aviation community has been wondering if the still-gestating RV-15, arguably Van’s brightest new opportunity for the coming year, would become a victim of the company’s money troubles. It’s a fair question for aviation enthusiasts to ask, but especially those who have money in the game, waiting on parts to come from Oregon and wondering what the future will bring.
Some have suggested that the only “right” thing for Van’s to do is kill (or at least shelve for now) the RV-15 and focus all its efforts on replacing parts caught up in the laser-cut debacle, getting its house in order and gaining back trust within the community. And to be clear, that’s the company’s stated goal: Making customers whole and ensuring full kits get delivered is the highest priority, I’m told.
I can see the point of view suggesting the RV-15 should go into the cooler. But I think that’s an overly simplistic approach. When Paul Dye and I got a behind-the-scenes look at the early part of RV-15 development, I was impressed with how on-task the engineering team was. And specialized. Sure, they got pulled into other parts of the company, but in that moment they had their development jobs to do, well into the evenings and over weekends to boot—and they did them.
So let’s consider that it doesn’t really make sense for the entire engineering team to get up from the CAD stations and start hammering out parts to fill orders. While they have already been busy with other tasks to support what is now very much a manufacturing-capacity issue, the engineering staff should, in my view, conclude its review of parts strength around the laser-cut items and get back on the RV-15. (No, they didn’t make me king, but a guy can fantasize.)
Here’s the point. It’s almost certain the company will focus on ensuring the manufacturing issues never happen again and to rebuild the company’s reputation for quality, but that won’t take forever. If the team of “fixers” brought in to gently guide Van’s away from the financial cliff do their jobs, the company will be in a position to move forward. At some point the fever breaks and you have to push ahead. The RV-15 is the vehicle for that effort, literally and emotionally—plus, the market’s been clamoring for a high-wing RV for years. Why make it wait?