Rutan wins Wright Brothers Trophy
Burt Rutan has won the 2015 National Aeronautic Association’s Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to a living American for ‘significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States’.
Rutan, doyen of US aircraft designers, first came to the fore in the general aviation world with his Vari-viggen delta wing homebuilt, followed by the soon to become ubiquitous Varieze and Longez. There followed a host of other innovative designs: homebuilts, business aircraft including the Beech Starship, which failed to win over significant numbers of traditionally conservative buyers in that market, research craft, racers, quasi-military types, and a brief flirtation with the late Colin Chapman at Lotus Cars with a stillborn microlight. His twin-engine push-pull Voyager flew nonstop around the world in 1986, crewed by Burt’s brother Dick and Jeana Yeager, and in 2005 Steve Fossett repeated the feat, but solo this time, in Global Flyer. Rutan has since led the design and development teams for the Whiteknight and Spaceship craft. His latest personal project is a multi-purpose two-seater called Skigull, which, with wheels, retractable skids and planing bottom, he says will be able to operate off land, rough seas, calm lakes or ‘any reasonably flat surface’, and with range sufficient to fly nonstop from California to Hawaii.