AKA Elbert Leander Rutan
Birthplace: Portland, OR
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Business
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Homebrew aircraft guru
Military service: USAF (1965-74)
Burt Rutan is a test pilot and aircraft designer whose designs have caught attention for their exceptional performance and novel construction. For example, his Voyager aircraft made a record-breaking, around-the-world flight in 1986 without refueling, and in 2000 his Proteus (Model 281) set world altitude records. While NASA's Office of Earth Science sponsored the Proteus experiments (providing pressurized suits), Rutan has at times run afoul of official attention, specifically with the FAA, which has doggedly refused to allow some of his designs -- despite their superior safety and performance. Rigid FAA guidelines that essentially define what an allowable aircraft is have at times hampered his vision, forcing him to retool a particular creation (with resultant loss of performance) simply to pass federal inspection. To put matters in perspective this would be like the inventor of the automobile being told the new vehicle was sub-standard because it didn't have a horse out in front of it.
Rutan's knowledge of high performance planes was garnered first hand in the Air Force where, from 1965 to 1972, he was Flight Test Pilot Engineer at Edwards Air Force Base in California. In 1972 he served as director of Bede Test Center, for Bede Aircraft, in Newton, Kansas. Two years later he founded his own company, the Rutan Aircraft Factory (RAF), in Mojave, California to develop light homebuilt aircraft. RAF turned out such craft as the Long-EZ, the Grizzly, the Defiant, VariViggen, VariEze, NASA AD-1, Quickie, the scaled NGT trainer, as well as Solitaire, Catbird, and the Voyager aircraft that was piloted around the world by his brother Dick.
Having decided to leave the homebuilt industry (and the regulations that accompanied it) in favor of creating larger-scale designs and research craft for companies, in April of 1982 Rutan founded Scaled Composites, Inc. Scaled holds the reputation of being the world's most productive aerospace prototype development company. Most Scaled projects are designed for the needs of a particular customer such as the 1988 America's Cup wing sail, the Triumph light executive jet for Beechcraft, the CM-44 UAV for California Microwave, the Scarab Model 324 reconnaissance drone for Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical, the McDonnell Douglas DC-X single stage rocket structure, the Raptor and Raptor D-2 high altitude RPVs for BMDO and the NASA ERAST program, etc. Scaled is currently developing new composite manufacturing processes for application to a wide range of potential future needs -- including vehicles for space tourism and light aircraft designed for commuters.
Scaled was sold to Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1985 and later, in 1989, acquired by Wyman-Gordon Company. Rutan continues as President/CEO and still enjoys "getting his hands dirty" working on new craft. Rutan has received a number of awards for his work including the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, "Engineer of the Year" by Design News, the British Gold Medal for Aeronautics, the Collier Trophy, the Presidential Citizen's Medal (presented by Ronald Reagan in 1986), and the 2000 Lindbergh Award by the Lindbergh Foundation. Rutan also holds the distinction that more of his designs are built and in the air than any aircraft designer since World War II.
Father: George Rutan (dentist)
Mother: Irene Rutan
Brother: Dick Rutan
Wife: Tonya (wife #4)
High School: Dinuba, CA
University: BS Aeronautical Engineering, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1965)
University: Golden Gate College
Build A Plane Advisory Board
Space Studies Institute Board of Senior Advisors
World Technology Network
National Aviation Hall of Fame 1995
Global Warming Skeptics
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