"Retired" Rutan's Next Project

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It's just natural to adapt to one's environment and when you're Burt Rutan in Idaho with too much time on your hands, that means designing an airplane to take advantage of the circumstances. "Going out and exploring little lakes and rivers in a STOL seaplane is a fantasy, I think, for a pilot," the legendary designer told EAA. "So having something that would be a high-speed boat, a very efficient boat for Lake Coeur d'Alene, and then convert into a seaplane to go to the rivers and small lakes and elsewhere is what I'm trying to do." Rutan admitted he's bored since retiring earlier this year from Scaled Composites, the Mojave-based aircraft and spacecraft design company he founded. And if Rutan's inspiration for what he calls 372-3 is any indication, this could be one of his most innovative designs yet.

EAA says Rutan is drawing on his observations of the giant Russian ground effect vehicles called ekranoplans that he saw during a visit 20 years ago. The aircraft are designed to skim the surface of water bodies at high speed but need ground effect to stay aloft. Rutan isn't saying what elements his new aircraft will borrow from the Russian behemoths nor is he saying when the aircraft might be finished, although he did say he wants to keep it in his garage. "I don't even know what it will look like. I'm not ready to build it yet," he said. "I have about three different options right now. This is in very preliminary stages."