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DUBAI: Burt Rutan reveals secret ekranoplan project

Retired Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan has revealed at the Dubai air show that his latest, secret aircraft project is actually a wing-in-ground effect vehicle.

Rutan launched his latest project, which Flightglobal identified last week as the Model 372-3, several months after retiring in April to a house overlooking a scenic lake in northern Idaho.

The location inspired Rutan to start analysing the possibility of building a wing-in-ground effect vehicle, a rare kind of seaplane that usually flies on a cushion of air like a hovercraft but can also become fully airborne.

The project remains in the analysis stage and he will not totally commit to build the new vehicle until he is sure that the design will work, said Rutan, who held a press conference at the air show.

If the project moves forward, Rutan said the purpose is aimed solely as a personal aircraft for himself - not as a commercial production programme.

Such a vehicle design would revive the series of Russian ekranoplan projects, including what US intelligence analysts called the "Caspian Sea Monster".

Rutan, who received Flightglobal's 2011 lifetime achievement award, said he received a seaplane pilot license in 1980, but has not flown a water-borne aircraft since then.

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