The choice of a propeller for your RV is almost as personal as the paint scheme and choice of engine. Not many parts of the airplane have as much impact on appearance and performance as the prop. It’s also an area of discussion which will bring out a variety of opinions from builders and owners. Often those opinions are colored by the specific brands or model of propeller the speaker is familiar with. What’s important in determining which propeller you should choose? Mostly, you need to be sure to consider your missions and needs.
Traditionally, RVs frequently used wooden fixed-pitch propellers. These are available direct from the manufacturer (a partial list is included in the Builders Manual) and have given excellent service. They are light, reasonably priced and smooth running. They also offer a measure of protection to the engine in the unlikely event of a prop strike: the prop shatters, but usually leaves the much more expensive engine unhurt. However, wooden propellers require constant attention to bolt torque and blade condition. They are prone to damage if flown in rain or operated on gravel.
Fixed-pitch metal and composite propellers
To overcome the drawbacks of wood props, many builders have expressed an interest in fixed-pitch metal propellers, and even more recently we have seen a number of composite fixed-pitch designs that can be quite nice. In the past, Van’s recommended against the use of metal fixed-pitch props, because there was no metal prop that could be re-pitched to handle the speed of an RV without also exceeding the twist or pitch limits established by the manufacturer. Several accidents in high-speed homebuilts have been traced to propeller blade failure in re-pitched metal props. The Sensenich Propeller Company has since designed a fixed-pitch metal prop specifically for high-speed homebuilts like the RV. They’ve also designed a composite fixed-pitch propeller, and as have several others. On the plus side, a fixed-pitch prop can be quite efficient and very low maintenance. On the other hand, it is more expensive than a simple wood prop.
An increasing number of airplanes are being equipped with constant-speed propellers. With a constant-speed prop, the engine can develop full power during take-off and climb, increasing performance considerably. Cruise speed increases only slightly, but fuel efficiency is improved. There is no doubt that a constant-speed prop is more efficient and flexible than a fixed pitch, but the benefits are balanced by significantly greater expense and complexity. You’ll find both metal and composite constant-speed propellers available from a number of reputable manufacturers. Metal blades offer a tough, lower maintenance option while composite models can help to significantly reduce the weight of the propeller, more often than not exchanging the weight for a higher price.
Choosing a propeller – as with many decisions in aviation – is a series of compromises. The “correct” prop depends on your mission and other factors such as weight and balance, overall weight, and the performance you want to achieve.
Buying a propeller from Van’s
Van’s sells a number of propellers, both fixed-pitch and constant-speed, at competitive prices. You can check the latest available models and prices on our web store, and you can also fill out and submit the online order form for your propeller choice on the Orders page.
Additional options related to propellers and accessories can also be found in our online store.
Van’s Propeller/Engine bundle pricing
If an Experimental Lycoming engine and new propeller are ordered from Van’s at the same time, we can offer a special “package” discount on the combination. It’s a great way to save as much at $1,000.00 – so be sure to check the box on your order form indicating your desire to get that discount. Our kit order team will communicate with you about the discounted price. In order to take advantage of this special deal, the following must be true:
- You’re ordering a new engine through Van’s
- That engine is being installed on an RV you are building, you’ve not ordered another engine for that same airplane before, and Van’s reviews and approves the purchase
- At the same time, and on the same order, you’re ordering a new propeller from Van’s from the list of eligible propellers
- The propeller you’re ordering is also being installed on the same aircraft as above
Feel free to call us with any questions. The online order forms for Lycoming engines and the propellers sold by Van’s are available on the Order page.