Rutans' Birthday Out Of This World

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Dick and Burt Rutan played gracious hosts to one of the most publicized "surprise" birthday parties ever held June 28. Their Mojave, Calif., Scaled Composites headquarters was descended upon by an estimated 105 Vari Ez and Long Ez homebuilts there to help the brothers celebrate their 60th (Burt) and 65th (Dick) birthdays. The gathering set a new record for the number of canard aircraft to gather in that spot, last won in 1988 when 82 planes made the pilgrimage to Mojave. The latest gathering has been in the works for months and word first got out about it in May. Those attending got an up-close look at the Rutans' Scaled Composites entry for the X-Prize, the White Knight launch vehicle and the Space Ship One spacecraft. Burt Rutan told the crowd of well-wishers that drop tests of the Space Ship One would start soon. The party-goers were also treated to an advance performance of the Rutans' EAA AirVenture presentation on personal space travel.