VFR fun machine? The SWS RV-14 full review!

SimWork Studios have made a bit of a name for themselves in the Microsoft Flight Simulator marketplace. Their excellent Kodiak 100 immediately caught my attention and I wrote a review about it not too long ago. That impressed me so much that I also bought their Van’s RV-14 and I’ve put quite a bit of time into this airplane. That means that its now time for the full review!

The aircraft

Experimental kit built aircraft from Van’s Aircraft have become one of the best known in this part of the aviation market. Founded by Richard “Van” VanGrunsven in 1973, Van’s have made a variety of airplane types over the years with the RV-14 being just one of several options that they sell either as a kit that you build yourself or, in some cases, as a mostly preassembled package. Because they are custom built, its rare to find two Van’s aircraft that are exactly alike which adds a bit to the prestige and experimental aircraft culture that have sprung up around them.

The RV-14 is specifically marketed as a two seat, side-by-side, sport airplane. It has a +6 and -3G aerobatic rating, predictable and sharp handling, a canopy that features an unobstructed forward and side view, and all of that is packaged together in a small, light, and slippery airframe. This gives it great fuel economy, a stellar cruise speed, and an impressive maximum speed for the category. Van’s Aircraft report that the aircraft’s maximum speed is 207 mph! It also has a stall speed of just 54 mph, and a ceiling over 18,000 feet.

That’s the real world version so how does the SWS RV-14 stack up? Well, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this one.

Feature overview

The RV-14 from SWS comes packed with a good number features. Those include a detailed 3D model, several liveries, both RV-14 and 14A versions (tail dragger and tricycle gear variants respectively), a realistic flight model, TDS GTNXi 750 and PMS50 GTN integration, a GNS530 avionics variant plus some sophisticated looking animations with flutter from the prop wash and really nice gear suspension modelling too.

There’s also some extra liveries options with a special Streamer’s Pack, a paintkit, and an avionics mod pack that are all available from the SWS RV-14 store page.

Pilot and co-pilot are also visually represented both in the cockpit view and from the exterior. They make use of Asobo’s default collection so you can choose the pilot and co-pilot model of your choice.

Not included are an EFB like we see with some of the Carenado products. It’s something that I hope SWS move to as it’d be nice to throw on the tie downs, pylons and safety equipment when parked at the end of a flight as a little bonus. It’d also be great to be able to one click start-up for those times when you just want to taxi and fly.

Speaking of which, Control E, the fast start-up for many MSFS modules, does not fully work with this airplane so you do need to do the procedures. Start-up on this aircraft is quick so its not a huge problem but for those who want to press a button and go, you’ll want to consider spawning on the runway instead.

Visuals

Sharp, highly detailed, authentic 3D modeling and textures are found all over SWS’ RV-14. It’s no surprise coming from their excellent job that they did with the Kodiak 100 and this just goes to prove that the work there wasn’t an accident or a fluke.

On the outside we have plenty of details from the fuel caps to the gear. Like with their previous product, if there were a criticism it would be that the aircraft is just a little too clean looking. That said, while the aircraft is clean it isn’t scratch free as the detail textures have plenty of subtle imperfections along the skin of the airplane. Basically, this is an airplane that has been cleaned but it’s also been flown. It’s a good balance but I’d love just a bit of dirt around the engine exhaust just to make it feel lived in a bit.

There are great animations here too. The sunshade that you can fold and unfold to block out the sun from the top is superb. There’s also the subtle animation of the struts when the aircraft lands and as it taxis on the tarmac is extremely good looking. It’s not necessarily something you’d even see as the pilot but the details are there and I always love that attention to detail.

The RV-14 versions has four liveries including one with a real world tailcode and three alternates for the GNS530 version. The tricycle gear RV-14A has five liveries including a slick looking red one that has a real tail code. It also has GNS530 versions.

You can download the content creators pack with schemes for AvAngel, BelGeod and TwoCats which adds some additional spice to the lineup. That, however, pales in comparison to their Kodiak 100 which comes with an almost overwhelming number of schemes. I would have loved to see a few more options either hypothetical or based on real world airplanes just to boost it up a bit more.

Sounds

Strong FMOD sounds on the RV-14 mean that the sound work is great both inside and out. The engine note, particularly as you throttle up and down, is really great. I love the detail there!

The drone is well controlled and it’s a largely satisfying sound to sit in the cockpit for a long period of time with the audio cranked. That’s great for those longer distance flights or when you do a bit of sightseeing with this airplane.

There’s also a really well done wind noise effect which increases and decreases realistically with your airspeed. I find that really useful when doing some aerobatics with the type as you don’t necessarily need to watch the airspeed number all the time – the sound will help tell you if you’re going too fast on its own. That’s excellent!

Flying it

Just about everything else that I’ve talked about so far feels like window dressing compared to the excellent work done with the flight model.

Tuned thanks to the efforts of real RV-14 pilots, this aircraft does indeed seem to hit all of the published numbers but it goes beyond that and it captures that sensation and feeling of flight in ways that few aircraft in MSFS have been able to so far. The subtle undulation of the nose as you fly through the air, the P-factor on takeoff and landing, and the snappiness of the ailerons while you do a roll all feel great. I should say that the ailerons, while snappy, aren’t super twitchy like an aerobatic performer like the Extra 300 in the sim and so the RV-14 is overall much more pleasant to just fly as well.

I don’t think SWS have made use of the CFD system for any of their airplanes yet but I have to say that I’m impressed with what they did here. It, like the Kodiak, feel the most X-Plane like of any MSFS aircraft I’ve tested though it is still missing a little something in that comparison. It’s still very good!

Unlike most aircraft in this category that I’ve reviewed for MSFS, the RV-14 is aerobatic rated so here I had some fun with doing some snap rolls, loops, and hammerheads. All things that the RV-14 and its relatively powerful engine and slippery airframe are able to pull off. I have no idea if this is how the real RV-14 handles but it certainly feels convincing. More importantly – its terrific fun!

I find there is little difference between the RV-14 an the RV-14A in the air but on the ground the taildragger is a bit more of a handful than the tricycle gear version. A good amount of left rudder is required to keep the airplane from rolling off in a direction that you don’t want it to go. Handling here is perhaps the worst bit about it as it has some of the ground handling weirdness that all Microsoft Flight Simulator aircraft have – particularly the tail draggers. Once you transition into flight, however, things become great!

The taildragger version is a tiny bit lighter and therefore should have slightly snappier handling. In my experience it’s a subtle thing only really noticeable when flying to the very limit of the flight model. Even then, I’m not sure how much of a difference there is.

Stalls and even spins are possible here and feel fluid and natural. Again, this is an aircraft that impresses.

Final thoughts

There’s very little I can say that’s bad about this aircraft. It’s available at a good price, it flies and handles extremely well and is among the most convincing MSFS small aircraft around. It also comes packed with plenty of features, and its in-sim utility as both a fun aerobatic VFR machine as well as a cross country tourer with unmatched visibility make this an easy recommendation. I’d love to see an EFB and a few more paint schemes included which would make this an even sweeter proposition.

There’s also the price which is highly competitive. Depending on the storefront you buy from, this plane will be slightly different in price. SWS will sell to you directly for €14.99 or $14.61 USD at current exchange rates. Just Flight offers the aircraft for $24.95 USD while Orbx offers it for $24.99 AUD which comes out to $15.52 USD at current exchange rates. At any of these prices, I’d put this as highly competitive with the best of the options out there with a superior flight model to the Carenado/Asobo offerings in the MSFS marketplace and ample features for most GA flyers.

If you like GA airplanes, are interested in the kit plane/experimental scene and want to recreate it in your sim, and you are looking for a zippy aircraft to fly around the world in, SWS’ RV-14 is an excellent product.

Screenshots

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