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Rutan’s SkiGull - First Flight
November 24, 2015 - On Tuesday, November 24, Burt Rutan’s latest creation, the amphibian he calls the SkiGull, made its first flight in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. According to the Looking Up, Way Up: The Burt Rutan Story Facebook page, the flight lasted nearly an hour and a half, and test pilot Glenn Smith reported that the airplane was “responsive, predictable, and fun.” Here’s a note from Rutan:
I have been waiting a long time to provide this update - the 47th new type of manned aircraft designed by me or produced by one of my companies, has now flown! Just in time, since we got our first North Idaho snow just hours after the flight.
While I do plan to continue designing new airplanes, the SkiGull is the very last airplane that I will be personally involved in building. I built SkiGull in my garage starting 20 months ago and it was a grueling exercise for an old guy in his 70s.
While I will finish the modifications and testing needed to find if SkiGull can reach the goal of being able to handle rough water, ocean swells, beaching on ocean coasts and operating from snowfields, I will not again expose myself of the challenge of laying up sticky composites, sanding foam and carbon fiber, staying up at night to monitor oven cures, etc. I plan to enjoy this new airplane in retirement, including its unique capabilities that combine STOL from all surfaces with ocean crossing range. It has a huge baggage compartment, so Tonya and I might even load it up for golf trips (I had quit golf 2 years ago to build SkiGull).
I have claimed that the most fun anyone can have at an airport is to watch the first flight of a new type. Yesterday our test team preflight briefed the first flight, took off from runway 06 at KCOE, flew for 1.8 hours and landed back on 06. The aggressive test card included all the basic stability and control flight tests with the cruise configuration and with flap down and skis extended. All maneuvers on the card were performed on this first flight. Speeds for first flight were limited to less than 80 knots and altitude to less than 8,000 feet.
Rutan, EAA 26033, unveiled the design at AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, so here’s hoping we see the finished product here in 2016.