Soon after the single-seat RV-3 was introduced, it became obvious that a lot of people wanted to share their RV Grin with a friend. Van realized that he wasn't going to be able to talk them into building two RV-3s, so he set out to design a two-place airplane that performed and handled as much like the RV-3 as possible.
The RV-4 was an entirely new design. A poll of prospective customers, taken in the early 1970s, showed a strong preference for tandem seating. This suited Van as well, putting the pilot on the centerline and keeping frontal area to a minimum. He knew that a bigger, heavier airplane could never perform and handle quite as well as small, light one, but when the RV-4 first flew in August, 1979, the results were better than he'd dared dream. The top speed was only 10 mph less than the speedy RV-3, and the handling qualities, so difficult to define, were virtually identical.
The RV-4 holds two people and a moderate, but useable, amount of baggage. The seating is compact, but still comfortable. It is flown from the front seat only, but the kit includes a stick for the rear-seater so he or she can share the fun. It is designed for engines of 150-160 horsepower, although engines as small as 125 hp and as large as 180 work well and are commonly installed.
Others have used their RV-4s for sport of a different kind, flying regularly into backcountry strips for fishing and recreation. More than one SuperCub pilot has been startled to land at an out-of-the-way mountain strip and find an RV-4 already there.
The RV-4 is also an excellent cross-country machine. Many couples routinely use the airplane as a long distance "time machine." The ability to land at any small airport means they can get where they really want to go, not just to the nearest big-city airport. The RV-4 takes them to fly-ins, to reunions, to vacations, and to visit the kids and grandkids. Distance is not usually a problem. An RV-4 is capable of crossing half of North America in a day.
"The all-around capabilities of the RV-4 are impressive. It is capable of excellent "sport" aerobatics. Several RV-4 pilots have successfully competed in organized aerobatic competitions, scoring well against specialty
Van's has been supplying and improving kits for RV-4 for over twenty-seven years and it has become one of the most popular kit aircraft in the world. Thousands of examples have flown in countries all over the globe and new ones continue to fly every week or two. If ever a personal airplane has stood the test of time, it is the RV-4.