Military aircraft, flags, fierce mythical creatures, comely young women — these are often the inspiration for aircraft paint schemes. You can get exceedingly elaborate with a design that stands out and attracts crowds, or go the other direction and keep it simple with a white base coat and a stripe.
The Bruch family from Sturgis, S.D., decided to go between the two ends of the spectrum when they designed a paint scheme for their RV-9 drawing inspiration from a child’s toy.
The Bruch family RV-9 is red, blue, green, and yellow. In many respects it looks like a piece of playground equipment or an airplane you might find in a circus act, which is why the family has affectionately named it the “clown car airplane.”
At last summer’s AirVenture, the Bruch RV was piloted by Zweit Bruch and his father, John. Both men found themselves explaining the history of the airplane and, more importantly, why they kept a Fisher-Price toy hammer with the same paint scheme as the airplane atop the cowling during the show.
The airplane and the hammer are linked, Zweit explained.
“I got the idea for the paint job several years ago while playing with my 2-year-old son and his multi-colored Fisher Price hammer,” he said. “My dad and I always thought we wanted a paint job that would stand out in a crowd of the very common ‘white airplanes with a stripe’ that we see everywhere we go.”
At Oshkosh, the Bruch airplane certainly did stand out in the rows and rows of RVs, many with stripes and others sporting military inspired markings.
The RV-9 is the latest in a series of airplanes owned by the family.
“My dad bought our Citabria 7GCBC new in 1973, had to sell it nine years later due to ranch expenses, and recently bought back the same airplane in 2009,” Zweit said. “In addition, my brother, Stein, has built an RV model 6 and 7, and is currently working on finishing a very unique Mullicoupe designed by Jim Younkin.”
The RVs are a family favorite, according to Zweit, because of their handling characteristics, speed, and economy.
“My dad and I started this project in 2002 and because we both work full time it didn’t get done until 2009,” he noted.
The Bruch RV is pulled through the air by an O-360 Barrett Precision Engine with ECi Vetterman exhaust and a Catto composite 3-blade propeller.
The simplicity of the paint scheme is made up by the complexity of the panel, designed by Zweit’s brother Stein Bruch, who owns SteinAir Inc., in Minnesota, which specializes in custom panels and avionics.
“My brother builds instrument panels and wiring harnesses,” Zweit said. “He and his general manager Jed Gregerson helped design and build the panel. It has two Advanced Flight Systems AF3500 EFIS/Engine Monitor screens (recently upgraded to AF4500s), Garmin GTX 327 transponder, PS Engineering PM3000 Intercom, Garmin SL30 NavCom radio, Garmin Aera 510 touchscreen GPS, and TruTrak Digiflight II autopilot. It also has backup altimeter and airspeed indicator steam gauges.”
“Our goal for this panel was to have a great amount of capability while remaining easy to use and clutter free so pilots with little to no glass panel experience like my Dad could learn to fly behind it with ease,” he explained. “I think we definitely succeeded as it is easy for us both to switch between our old bare bones 1973 Citabria with the standard six-pack to this modern RV panel.”
Why spend so much time and energy on the instrument panel yet opt for the simplistic paint scheme? It’s all about practicality, said Zweit.
The Bruch RV-9 flies off the family ranch’s grass strip.
“We wanted something unique and still easy to maintain and touch up, so that’s how the clown car airplane came to be,” he said.
Most people have a reaction to the paint job, Zweit said.
“I would guess around 95% really seem to like the uniqueness of the paint job, and admit they will probably never forget it,” he said. “The other 5% kind of just make a polite comment about how they wouldn’t have painted their airplane like that. We enjoy seeing the reactions, because we know whether they like it or not, it stands out in the crowd!”