While lots of attention was paid to the PiperSport at Sun ‘n Fun 2010, and while Cessna’s Skycatcher remains the dominant collector of order deposits, another legacy producer that has entered the LSA sector is Van’s Aircraft. *** By most reckoning, Van’s can lay claim to being the largest kit aircraft company in the world. Their LSA-sized RV-12 represents another indication that major manufacturers see merit in Light-Sport Aircraft. I finally got a flight in this new model; my full report will appear in a future issue of Plane & Pilot magazine but here are some sample bits. *** Most simply put, RV-12 is a Van’s. My experience in a RV-4 and -9 — plus affirmative comments from folks with much more RV experience — confirms the same great qualities found throughout the Van’s lineup. These shared characteristics include light responsive controls with ailerons truly pleasant. Many GA drivers will sense the RV-12 to be notably lighter handling than their experience, however, they’ll get used to it quickly. *** Though it may not look as sleek as the shapely carbon fiber LSA, RV-12 proves its cleanliness by quickly accelerating as you lower the nose, and, on approach at 65 knots, the -12 retains plenty of float. *** Stalls were very slow, in the high-30-knot range and stall behavior — power off or with full throttle — was excellent, a clean break but no tendency to drop a wing. *** Pricing the RV-12 kit components offers us a clue about general cost-of-production for any fully-built LSA. The -12 airframe kit with interior is a relative bargain, roughly $23,000. The powerplant kit represents a larger share at $27,000. Van’s avionics kit boosts the total another $13,000 before extras like a second Dynon screen ($2,350) or an autopilot ($2,000). Thus, with kit shipping, paint, and finished interior, I estimate you’ll reach approximately $70,000. Assuming about 500 hours* of experienced, professional building labor in a facility with tools valued at only $30 per hour, a finished RV-12 is worth something like $85,000, a figure covering only modest profit and marketing. Perhaps this helps put general LSA prices in better perspective. *Van’s estimates the build time for an “average builder” to be 700-900 hours to a paint-ready stage.
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