Design by Rutan

A retrospective of Burt Rutan’s high-performance art

Rutan's 31st airplane, the mantis-like Proteus, is multi-mission but one of a kind. (Jim Sugar)
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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.

28. Boomerang
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.

31. Proteus
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.

34. White Knight
With a wingspan of 93 feet, the twin-turbojet mothership carried SpaceShipOne on a one-hour climb to 50,000 feet and released it into history. Now Scaled Composites is offering the high-altitude flier as a research platform or booster stage for other small launchers. In 2005 and 2006, it launched the Boeing X-37 mini-spaceplane (see “Space Shuttle Jr.,” Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010) for drop and landing tests.

35. SpaceShipOne
Winner of the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed reusable spacecraft, SpaceShipOne rode into space on a hybrid rocket motor with a solid fuel and liquid oxidizer. From launch to landing, its first flight, on June 21, 2004, lasted 24 minutes. Rutan credits his successors at Scaled with the design of SpaceShipTwo and its booster.

36. Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer
Earth is wonderful the second time around, and faster when you’ve got a jet engine. In 2005, the late adventurer Steve Fossett became the first to fly solo on a nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world. He did it in under three days in the second world-circling Rutan-designed airplane, the GlobalFlyer. Lovelier than its piston-engine forebear Voyager, it has a sailplane-like wing with a span of 114 feet, twin booms, which held most of its gas, and a central pod for the pilot.


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