Rutan's SkiGull Takes First Flight

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Burt Rutan’s latest aircraft prototype, the SkiGull, took a first flight this week from Coeur d’Alene airport in Idaho. The documentary film team following Rutan’s work posted photos on Facebook, saying the flight lasted for about 90 minutes with test pilot Glenn Smith, who reported that “the plane was responsive, predictable and fun.” Rutan’s 47th design is an amphibious airplane that can land on water, snow, or hard runways. Rutan, who plans to explore the world with the SkiGull, wants the airplane to be able to fly on multiple types of fuel, further enhancing its utility. It also will have enough range to fly from California to Hawaii without ferry tanks. 

The two-seat SkiGull underwent its first water taxi tests earlier this month powered by a Rotax 912 iS engine running on Swift alternative fuel, according to a report from The Coeur d’Alene Press. Smith tested on the water over two days, gradually increasing taxi speed while testing yaw, pitch, stability and responsiveness, showing a need to adjust pitch angle on the water, the newspaper reported. The design incorporates a set of shock-absorbing flexible skis that allow it to operate on rougher water conditions than standard seaplanes. It also has small wheels to land on hard surfaces.