The original RV-1 flew again today after it was restored (RV-1 photo by Doug Reeves).

RV-1? What’s an RV-1? Richard VanGrunsven (Van) bought a Stits SA-3A Playboy in 1962. Back in the 50’s, the Sitts Playboy was a somewhat popular single seat taildragger, of tube and fabric construction. It had low wings, braced with stuts above the wings. Van bought the aircraft without its original 75 hp engine and he installed a 125 hp Lycoming O-290G. He was not completely satisfied with the performance and handling of the resulting aircraft, as the aircraft was quite nose heavy with the larger engine, and he felt that the airframe was too heavy and had excessive drag. Van started a long series of modifications to address these issues.

He made many modifications to the cowling, to reduce cooling drag, fitted a teardrop shaped bubble canopy and wheel pants. Still not satisfied, he replaced the original wings with aluminum cantilever wings with flaps, with the wings fitted further forward to address the forward CG issue. The new wings had the same wing span, wing area and airfoil as the original, but the drag and weight were much reduced. The resulting aircraft had much improved performance and handling. The stall speed and top speed were much improved, as was the weight.


Stits SA-3A N-5827N

VanGrunsven RV-1 N-5827N


125 hp Lycoming O-290G


Empty Weight

815 lb

730 lb

Fuel Capacity

21.5 USG

22 USG

Top Speed

152 mph

171 mph

Cruising Speed (sea level)

135 mph

150 mph

Cruising Speed (8,000 ft)

165 mph

Stall Speed, power off

65 mph

50 mph

Take-off ground run

350 ft

250 ft

Landing ground roll

600 ft

300 ft

Rate of climb

1.350 ft/mn

1,750 ft/mn

Minimum descent rate, power off

1,200 ft/mn

850 ft/mn

Speed Ratio (top speed / stall speed)



There are many more details in an article that was published in Sports Aviation in June 1968.

Van eventually sold the RV-1, but he took the knowledge he had gained from it and designed the all aluminum RV-3. The RV-3 was in many ways a perfected RV-1, and it became a popular aircraft.

The RV-1 fell off the radar for many years, but it resurfaced in Texas some time ago. The Friends of the RV-1 non-profit organization was formed - they purchased the aircraft and restored it to flying condition. It is planned that the RV-1 will make its public debut at the annual Sun’n Fun Fly-In in Florida at the end of March. Then it will do a tour of the US and Canada before being donated to the EAA Museum at Oshkosh during AirVenture 2012.

I am organizing the Canadian portion of the tour. The tour details are still in a state of flux, but we are hoping that the RV-1 will make appearances at Stanley, NS for Fly-In Breakfasts on the Victoria Day long weekend. We hope to have it on display somewhere in SW Ontario during the weekend of 26-27 May. The original plan was for it to be at an RV Fly-In Breakfast on 27 May at Stratford, ON, but the breakfast organizers have just learned that the airport will be closed for construction. Standby for Plan B. And finally, it is scheduled to attend the Langley, BC Fly-In on 23 June.