Rutan Set To Retire

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Burt Rutan announced through a November 2010 Scaled Composites press release his plans to retire in April, 2011, and that day has come ... but there may be at least one more aircraft up his sleeve before he goes. Rutan's career began in earnest in 1974, with a $15,000 loan from his father and an idea to build a more efficient, more affordable aircraft. By 1975, his VariEze arrived on the homebuilt scene. Thirty-six years later he's known as the man who designed Voyager, the piston-engine aircraft that flew around the world, unrefueled; and SpaceShipOne, the first privately produced manned vehicle to reach space. At 67 years of age at least 45 of his designs have been built and flown. And at least five of them have been put on display at the Smithsonian. Rutan has set markers of achievement that have been recognized well beyond the circles of aircraft builders, pilots and the aviation community that calls him one of their own. He was set to retire quietly, as early as Friday, but has publicly stated we'd see one more design before he does.

Rutan, currently a Mojave, Calif., native, told an audience at a local high school fundraiser, "There will be one more Burt Rutan design before I retire in April. I can't tell you anything about it until it's flying." Rutan's previous designs have earned him the FAI Gold Medal, the Collier Trophy, and the Society of Test Pilots' Doolittle Trophy. He's also earned the Presidential Citizens Medal. His Voyager is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum where it shares space with the Wright Flyer and Spirit of St. Louis. Rutan stepped down from his duties as company president at Scaled in 2008, after open-heart surgery, but still played an active roll at the company. After his departure, Scaled, which now employs roughly 350 people, will continue to be headed by its current president, Douglas B. Shane. Rutan and his wife plan to retire to Idaho on a property by a lake.