RAFE’s Lady Vi VariViggen Update


The contents of the oil filter and screen tell the story.

Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience, which undertook restoration of the only flying VariViggen, suffered a huge setback when the engine quit on the way to AirVenture this year. RAFE’s Ryszard Zadow published an update on the RAFE site, which includes this: “With OSH behind us our focus has turned back to the only flying Viggen left and the loss of oil and engine failure en route to Oshkosh a few weeks ago.”

The airplane was landed safely despite experiencing a gear collapse. It has been recovered and has undergone a preliminary inspection. “Sadly, the news is not good. Lots of metal, everywhere. Lady Vi’s engine did not survive.”

“Now the challenge is how do we proceed from here? RAFE is a small 501(c)3 that exists on volunteers and donations. There wouldn’t have been a VariViggen at AirVenture last year for the 50th anniversary of Burt Rutan’s debut of his first canard design if we had not had an engine donated to us. The angle-valve 200 hp IO-360 was not the ‘right’ engine for a VariViggen, but we were grateful for it and we made it work. That engine could be rebuilt but what would be best now is acquire the appropriate engine for Lady Vi. We’re looking for a Lycoming IO-360-B1 series engine. These are some of the lightest IO-360’s Lycoming produced and are in the 180 hp range, plenty of power for Lady Vi. This will help reduce the gross weight by also allowing us to remove a lot of the ballast in the nose of the Viggen needed to offset the heavier engine on it now. All positive changes.”

RAFE’s next goal is to “find this engine and somehow acquire it. Ideally, as a small 501c3 non-profit as we’d love to find one that could be donated to RAFE or generate enough donations to purchase one.”

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To that end, RAFE has started a GoFundMe page seeking donations to help get the world’s only flying VariViggen back in the air. “Getting Lady Vi flying for the 50th anniversary was not a ‘one shot deal.’ We’re in this for the long haul. It is part of of our mission to preserve, promote and educate those in the future about Burt Rutan’s designs. All this is only made possible because of volunteers and donations dedicated our mission. Please help keep these dreams alive.”

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Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.


    • RAFE says it stemmed first from a loss of oil and then the internal damage from lack of lubrication. The core cause of the leak is still under investigation.

  1. I guess using an engine that “was not the ‘right’ engine for a VariViggen” was probably not a good idea. But you made the choice, and now it’s the consequences.

    • Just because it wasn’t the ideal engine for the airplane doesn’t mean it was bound to fail. The engine didn’t know which airframe it was in.


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