Soon after the single-seat RV-3 was introduced, it became obvious that a lot of people wanted to share their RV with a friend. Van realized that he wasn’t going to be able to talk them into building two RV-3s. He set out to design a two-place airplane that performed and handled as much like the RV-3 as possible. This was not as easy as just "stretching the RV-3."

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 centreline and keeping frontal area to a minimum. He knew that a bigger, heavier airplane could never perform and handle quite as well as a 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 their 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 are approved and commonly installed.

The all-around capabilities of the RV-4 are impressive. It is capable of excellent "sport" aerobatics, and several RV-4 pilots have successfully competed in organized aerobatic competitions, scoring well against specialty aerobatic airplanes.

Others have used their RV-4s for sport of a different kind, flying regularly into backcountry strips for the fishing and recreation. More than one SuperCub pilot has been startled to land at a 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 a problem. An RV-4 is capable of crossing half of North America in a day.

Span 23 ft
Length 20 ft 4 in
Height 5 ft 5 in
Wing Area 110 sq ft
Empty Weight 905 - 913 lbs
Gross Weight 1500 lbs
Wing Loading 13.64 lb/sq ft
Power Loading 10.0 - 8.33  lb/hp 
Engine 150-180 hp
Propeller  Fixed or C/S
Fuel Capacity 32 US gal
Baggage 50 lbs
Solo Weight 1160 lbs
Gross Weight 1500 lbs
150 hp 160 hp 180 hp
Empty weight and performance measured with fixed pitch wood propeller
Speed - Solo Weight
Top Speed 201 mph 205 mph 213 mph
Cruise [75% @ 8000 ft] 189 mph 193 mph 201 mph
Cruise [55% @ 8000 ft] 171 mph 174 mph 182 mph
Stall Speed 48 mph 48 mph 48 mph
Speed - Gross Weight
Top Speed 200 mph 204 mph 212 mph
Cruise [75% @ 8000 ft] 188 mph 192 mph 200 mph
Cruise [55% @ 8000 ft] 170 mph 173 mph 180 mph
Stall Speed 54 mph 54 mph 54 mph
Ground Performance - Solo Weight
Takeoff Distance 325 ft 300 ft 260 ft
Landing Distance 300 ft 300 ft 300 ft
Ground Performance - Gross Weight
Takeoff Distance 475 ft 450 ft 400 ft
Landing Distance 425 ft 425 ft 425 ft
Climb/Ceiling - Solo Weight
Rate of Climb 1,850 fpm 2,050 fpm 2,450 fpm
Ceiling 21,700 ft 24,000 ft 28,600 ft
Climb/Ceiling - Gross Weight
Rate of Climb 1,500 fpm 1,650 fpm 1,950 fpm
Ceiling 18,000 ft 19,500 ft 23,000 ft
Range [75% @ 8000 ft] 640 sm 640 sm 590 sm
Range [55% @ 8000 ft] 790 sm 790 sm 725 sm