Ru­tan wins Wright Broth­ers Tro­phy

Pilot - - PILOT NOTES -

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.

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