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Rutan to Retire Next April; EAA Plans Tribute at Oshkosh 2011

Burt Rutan

November 4, 2010 — Burt Rutan, EAA 26033, founder and chief technical officer of Scaled Composites, Mojave, California, announced this week he would retire in April 2011 and assume the title of Scaled’s founder and chairman emeritus. EAA, which had already begun planning to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Burt’s Voyager aircraft around the world flight, will feature a full Salute to Burt Rutan as one of its main themes at AirVenture Oshkosh 2011.

Always among AirVenture’s most popular presenters of all time, Rutan, 67, is best known for his unique, innovative airplane designs, many of which were first seen by eager homebuilders at annual Oshkosh conventions over the years. Whether they were homebuilt designs like the VariViggen (his first), VariEZ, and Long-EZ (his self-described best homebuilt), or one-off marvels like the Boomerang, Voyager, GlobalFlyer, and Grizzly - or most recently, SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo - Rutan designs have always been distinctive, unique, and awe-inspiring.

“Burt has been such an integral part of our convention and of the homebuilt movement,” said EAA Chairman Tom Poberezny, who called him Thursday to extend congratulations as well as an invitation to attend AirVenture Oshkosh next summer. “He accepted my invitation and will participate in a tribute program, which we will be coordinating with Burt and his wife, Tonya, in the coming months.”

EAA will work with builder, owner, and pilot groups to encourage a major gathering of Burt Rutan-designed aircraft, and will also create a special parking area for them on the flightline. Well-known Rutan aircraft designs will also be on prominent display on AeroShell Square and serve as a backdrop for various presentations during the week.

In addition EAA’s AirVenture Museum will highlight its several significant Rutan airplanes in the collection, including the VariViggen and VariEze prototypes, the Amsoil racer, Grizzly, Voyager fuselage mock-up, Solitaire, Williams V Jet II, and the SpaceShipOne feathering mock-up. Other activities will include flying display activities, a special program at Theater in the Woods, and AeroShell Square presentations.

“Burt is certainly an aviation icon, and he was a key figure in the success and growth of the homebuilt movement,” Poberezny added.

Even though Burt is retiring, Poberezny predicted he’d still be involved to some extent in aviation innovation. “Burt’s the kind of guy who’s always thinking. I’m sure he’s not designed his last airplane.”

Innovating in Southern California’s high desert of for nearly 50 years, Burt graduated from Cal Poly in 1965 and went right to work for the Air Force as a flight test project engineer. He founded the Rutan Aircraft Factory in 1974 to develop experimental aircraft designs for homebuilders. Eight years later he founded Scaled Composites.

AirVenture activities surrounding the Salute to Burt Rutan will be announced as they are finalized.

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