Design by Rutan
A retrospective of Burt Rutan's high-performance art.
- By The Editors
- Photographs by Jim Sugar
- Air & Space magazine, January 2012
(Page 3 of 5)
The VariEze introduced Rutan to aviation fans; Voyager introduced him to the world. Two years after its first flight, in 1984, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew Voyager on a nine-day journey, the first nonstop, unrefueled circumnavigation of the globe (see Moments & Milestones).
While Rutan was readying Voyager for its first flight, he designed a canard cropduster with a tractor engine and chemical hopper in the forward fuselage. After the prototype crashed, the customer, Advanced Technology Aircraft Company, didn’t proceed with production.
In 1987, California Microwave Inc. (CMI), a reconnaissance systems company now located near Baltimore, Maryland, requested a scaled-up, optionally piloted Long-EZ to test airborne sensors and cameras. After accepting the CM-44, CMI had the aircraft wing and canard redesigned. The aircraft did not enter production, but the U.S. Army and Navy contracted for its use as a flying testbed for surveillance equipment.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) approached Rutan in 1987 for a 62 percent scale model to test a design with extreme short-takeoff-and-landing capability to fly special operations forces into and out of tight spots. Rutan designed a tandem-wing, twin-turboprop aircraft with a T-tail. The Advanced Technology Tactical Transport model was able to take off in 680 feet; the agency calculated that the full-scale aircraft would take off in 1,000 feet.
Winner of the 1988 CAFE 400, an efficiency race determining which aircraft gets the highest speed consuming the least fuel, the Catbird had been briefly considered by Beech Aircraft CEO Jim Walsh as a production follow-on to the Bonanza. When that didn’t come to be, Rutan flew the five-place, single-engine airplane as his own, and parked it in 1996. This year a Scaled Composites engineer led a restoration of it and flew the airplane to EAA’s Oshkosh fly-in as part of the association’s tribute to Rutan.
A Rutan business jet, the eight-passenger, twin-turbofan Triumph was tested to 41,000 feet and 0.69 Mach in 1988, when Scaled Composites was still owned by Raytheon’s Beech Aircraft division. When the companies divorced, Scaled got custody of the Triumph, but never put it into production. The Triumph test program marked the first flight of the Williams FJ44 engine.
21. ATTT Bronco Tail
According to a 1998 DARPA report, flight tests of the cruciform-tail Advanced Technology Tactical Transport showed problems with stability, and with control of the airplane when one engine was out. Rutan corrected the problems by extending the engine nacelles and joining them with a high tail like that on the Air Force’s OV-10 Bronco.
In response to a 1985 Army requirement for a light attack aircraft, Scaled offered a compound wing-and-canard jet that carried a 25-mm Gatling gun on the right side of the fuselage. To keep the powerplant, a 3,000-pound-thrust turbofan, from ingesting the gun’s smoke, the intake was placed on the fuselage’s left side. The design wasn’t selected, but the airplane did perform in a Hollywood feature film: the 1991 Aces, Iron Eagle III, starring Lou Gossett Jr.
23. Lima 1
When Toyota needed a testbed for a Lexus engine that the car company planned to use on an airplane, it called Scaled Composites. For the top-secret project, Rutan integrated the engine as one powerplant on a conventional twin, possibly a Piper Aztec.