Lady Vi Flies Again


After a yearlong effort to restore a very rare Rutan design, the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience (RAFE) suffered an enormous setback. On the way to AirVenture 2023, the VariViggen, the root of Burt Rutan’s groundbreaking designs that would redefine homebuilding in the 1970s, suffered an engine failure. Fortunately, the VariViggen landed safely, with the only damage, beyond the trashed engine, due to a gear collapse. “It was a minor miracle the whole airplane wasn’t lost,” says RAFE’s Ryszard Zadow.

Better news this year, says RAFE. “Once again though, RAFE volunteers have pulled off what some thought was not going to be possible and yesterday, Lady VI flew again!” While the team of volunteers still has issues to work through before the big show in Oshkosh, they’re optimistic.

“Like in 2022, we have a month to work out all the bugs that come with an airplane being repaired for nearly a year and installing a new, different engine. So far test flights are encouraging and we are very confident AirVenture 2024 and the Rutan Reunion Flight will once again have a VariViggen flying before the crowd,” Zadow says. Having the VariViggen there is just one piece of the puzzle, though. “RAFE’s goal is to fly at least one example of Burt Rutan’s homebuilt designs and a few more in the airshow at OSH this year, and every year. Getting Lady Vi back in the air has been 11 months worth of work that will continue right up to the day we arrive at OSH. It wouldn’t have happened if not for volunteer time, effort, donations and the support of great aviation companies.”

RAFE, a 501c3 non-profit organization, has benefitted from support of Rutan-design enthusiasts as well as the general public, and is accepting donations to help with ongoing operations and restorations.


  1. I remember at Oshkosh ’73 I went to, that Vari-viggen was flying over a lot, and it garnered a lot of attention, due to it’s delta shaped wing. It stood out from most planes. The other big hits were the BD-5 jet, and the Butler Midget Mustang with folding wings and retractable gear. Jim Bede had a BD-5 fuselage anyone could sit in, to try it on. Most kit companies should do the same. One shouldn’t have to build a plane to find out if they fit inside it.


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