Van’s Aircraft Responds to COVID-19 Challenges

Vans’ Vice President Greg Hughes, President and Chief Technical Officer Rian Johnson and Van’s founder, Richard VanGrunsven.

In the very first forum conducted at AirVenture 2021, Van’s Aircraft leaders gave the public and its legion of builders, a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected business and how the company has responded to those challenges. Van’s Vice President Greg Hughes and President/Chief Technical Officer Rian Johnson presented their frank assessment of the company’s response to cataclysmic changes over the past two years.

While countless companies declined and failed during the shutdown of society in 2020, Van’s saw new kit orders soar by 250%. It seems that potential builders faced with an increase in time at home did their research and selected the wide array of Van’s kits to fill their desire to build and aviate. That was the good news.

The bad news was a host of supply chain issues related to their quick build kits. The aluminum parts for these kits are fabricated in Oregon by Van’s employees at their home facility and then shipped to the Philippines, where a contractor rivets the fuselages and wings together and then ships them back to Oregon. Despite paying twice the going price for shipping container slots, the containers full of quick build kits have been stalled, resulting in long delays. On top of that debacle, it became apparent that the primer used in the Philippines for 20 years failed to do its job when the supplier somehow changed the formula. As a result, many quick build kits were shipped to Oregon with faulty primer. Van’s made good on each and every shipped quick build kit and even built several fuselages and wings in Oregon for builders who needed them.

Van’s sprang forward during these challenges, first by hiring more personnel. They doubled their engineering staff, both to develop the RV-15 and to improve the kits that have been in circulation for years. To boost production and quality, Van’s purchased a new CNC tubing bender, a 500-ton hydro-press and a CNC tube coping machine. They also purchased an MTS fatigue test machine to empirically confirm engineering decisions. By bringing more processes and higher productivity into their facility, Van’s is not only poised to meet the challenge of greater sales, but they are doubling down on their commitment to grow even more in the future.

Finally, Van’s is revamping their web store, which will empower customers to set up accounts, easily search parts and even save a list of parts and accessories for a future purchase. At the AirVenture forum, builders responded enthusiastically. Despite the challenges, things seem to be looking up for Van’s.


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