Rutan Honored at AirVenture


There are arguably no more innovative and iconic aircraft than those designed by Burt Rutan. From the VariViggen and VariEze to the Long-EZ and Defiant, Rutan penned Experimental designs that both kick-started the movement in the 1970s and gave credence to fiberglass. Of course, his bigger projects included the round-the-world Voyager, which presaged so many amazing designs from the Grizzly STOL aircraft to the spaceship-lifting White Knight.

Rutan has been a frequent visitor to AirVenture and used the venue as the launching pad for his newest designs. I remember seeing the five-seat Catbird for the first time at Oshkosh, either 1988 or 1990. It looked sleek and fast, and something about the way the pilot sat in the front center (with, well, Row 2 just behind and outboard) just reinforced how Rutan could dexterously think out of the box.

At AirVenture 2019, many of Rutan’s designs were on display in Boeing Square, including a Long-EZ, a VariViggen, twin-engine Defiant, and a Beech Starship. On Thursday afternoon, a flyby of his homebuilt designs only reinforced how much Rutan defied convention. Rutan was to give a talk on Thursday evening.

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Marc Cook
Marc Cook is a veteran special-interest journalist who started as a staffer at AOPA Pilot in the late 1980s. Marc has built two airplanes, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Aviation Sportsman, and now owns a 180-hp, steam-gauge-adjacent GlaStar based in western Oregon. Marc has 5000 hours spread over 200-plus types and four decades of flying.


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