Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Vans factory tour

The most boring part of working in corporate aviation is long stretches of waiting around.  On a day turn trip you usually wake up at o-dark thirty, get your passengers to their destination and then wait around all day until it's time to take them back.   It actually works very well for me because I have a software project I'm working on, so I just crack open my MacPro and work.  If there is time we can also grab the crew car and go hunt for a good food spot, go for a hike or whatever.

A recent trip landed me in Aurora Oregon for 7 hours.  Turns out that Aurora is the home of Vans Aircraft, and it also turns out they are pretty friendly folks.  I wandered over there and asked one of the guys if I could get a tour of the factory.  "You bet!" he said.  The factory was impressive.  A huge warehouse basically with brisk activity and the sound of rivet guns and boxes moving around everywhere.

Here is a set of QuickBuild fuselages I think for the RV-9.  These are assembled in the Philippines but the build quality looked very good.  The riveting was perfect.

It's kind of like Home Depot of RV parts.  Here the rafters are stacked with wing assemblies.  Others have fiberglass canopy assemblies, engines in crates, and all manner of various pieces of aircraft parts.

After the tour we went to the hangar to look at the completed aircraft and my guide said, "Want to take a ride?".  Uhhhh, twist my arm!  I had my pick from any of their planes and I was kind of torn on which one to pick.  The LightSport looks fun, and the RV-10 looked like a cool 4 place... but I settled on the RV-14 which is like a big daddy RV-9.  Here she is...

I had a great time cruising over the Oregon country side at 1500 ft.  The plane handles so smoothly and is so responsive as well as being perfectly balanced in pitch and roll.  It has a slider canopy and a center mounted stick so it feels like a little fighter.  I could really see myself buying one of these one day, though I doubt I'd want to stick 2,000 hours into building one.  The plane is dead simple to fly and pure fun.

Then it was time to hop back into the jet where it's all two crew coordination, long checklists and button pushing.  A very different kind of fun!

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