Rutan's Risky Business
By Stephen Trimble
New ideas are powerful things, even when they are wrong. Aviation legend Dick Rutan is not criticising his younger brother when he says the aerodynamic ideas of the now-retired founder of Scaled Composites are generally wrong two times out of three.
After a 46-year career as a test pilot and pioneering aircraft and spaceship designer, a list of Burt Rutan's failed projects could fill the world's most eclectic aviation museum.
But, oh, the ideas that worked...
A partial list of successful projects includes lightplanes (Vari-Eze, Long-EZ, Quickie, Defiant) designed to be almost impossible to stall; an admittedly dangerous aircraft design (Voyager), no heavier than a Beechcraft King Air, which circumnavigated the globe nonstop; and a privately-funded space vehicle (SpaceShipOne) configured to assume the perfect profile for safe re-entry.