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 4 of 5)
24. Pond Racer
Businessman and airplane collector Bob Pond shook up the 1991 Reno Unlimited class races by fielding this all-composite, twin-boom racer, powered by two V-6 automobile engines and fueled by methanol. Pilot Rick Brickert qualified the racer at 400 mph that year and won second place in the bronze Unlimited race the following year. In 1993, the airplane crashed during a qualifying heat, and Brickert was killed.
25. Lima 2
After flight testing a 250-hp Lexus V-8 engine on Lima 1, Rutan designed an airplane around it.
26. Raptor D-1
Designed to be a remotely piloted air vehicle under a contract with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the long-winged, high-altitude Raptor conducted its early test fights with a pilot on board—emphasis on the word “on.” The test pilot sat outside on a saddle, straddling the airplane’s fuselage at the point where the wings intersected. The pilots could override the UAV’s control system. The high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft was flown to test the feasibility of firing a small missile that would destroy a tactical ballistic missile during the boost phase of its flight.
27. Raptor D-2
The second Raptor was large enough for its test pilot to fit inside. Beginning in 1995, it was one of several aircraft to fly in the NASA Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program.
Rutan calls it his best design for general aviation. It is also the strangest in a stable of strange creatures. Like the Defiant before it, the Boomerang is an approach to the problem of making a twin-engine airplane safe in the event of an engine failure. In this case, one engine is on the fuselage, the other is on a boom that houses a baggage compartment.
29. VisionAire Vantage
In 1993, hoping to get a jump on the entry-level jet market, VisionAire Corporation ordered a proof-of-concept vehicle from Scaled Composites, acquired 500 investors, and built a factory in Ames, Iowa. Six years later, it went out of business.
30. V-Jet II
With support from NASA’s General Aviation Propulsion program, Williams International created in the early 1990s a tiny turbofan, weighing just 100 pounds and producing 700 pounds of thrust. Williams went to Scaled Composites for an airplane to demonstrate the engine, and the V-Jet II, a five-place, V-tail twin, convinced 1997 Oshkosh-goers and plenty of investors that the age of the personal jet was at hand. Buyers weren’t as convinced.
Rutan’s 31st airplane, the mantis-like Proteus is multi-mission but one of a kind. Invented as a broadband tower in the sky, it has flown instead as a high-altitude (above 60,000 feet) research aircraft that can loiter for up to 14 hours. As a mothership for hire, it has tested dozens of sensors and systems, including a target pod for an airborne laser, a rocket-release trapeze/lanyard for a private space company, and, for NASA, a collision-avoidance system for unpiloted aircraft.
32. Adam 309
With the centerline thrust of the Defiant and the Bronco tail of the ATTT, the Adam 309 went into production at Adam Aircraft Industries in Denver, Colorado. The five-passenger transport won an appearance in the 2006 Michael Mann film Miami Vice, but after delivering only seven aircraft, Adam entered bankruptcy.
33. Rodie LEZ
According to Rutan biographer Dan Linehan, somewhere out there is a Long-EZ modified for purposes only Rutan and his collaborators then at McDonnell Douglas know—and they’re not talking.