The Rutan VariEze
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The Rutan VariEze

The Rutan VariEze and LongEze

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            The Rutan VariEze was one of Burt Rutan’s early revolutionary homebuilt designs which stemmed out from years of experience building airplanes. Started out in 1974, the VariEze popularized the canard configuration design and also pioneered the moldless composite construction for homebuilt aircraft. Rutan’s adaptation of a pusher propeller configuration also commemorated the configuration of the first powered flight aircraft with a man aboard as achieved by the Wright flyer with Orville at the controls on the morning of 17 December 1903.

Burt Rutan has another homebuilt aircraft design before, the VariViggen he made as inspired by the Swedish built fighter Saab 37 Viggen. Rutan Aircraft Factory actually sold 600 plan sets for homebuilders for that model but the crash of one type sometime in 2006 actually discouraged the use of that homebuilt design. As for the VariEze, the first flight was made in May 1975 using a Volkswagen engine conversion. At Oskosh in August 1975 it has a debut appearance as it was registered to fly under the 500 kg class distance record of 1,638 miles ( 2,636 km). The VariEze gained further popularity in such aircraft fly-in event allowing Burt to redesign the aircraft so that it could be sold to interested parties in a set of plans the same as the VariViggen.

            The second prototype featured a larger wing and a more powerful Continental O-200 engine which was normally utilized on single engine aircraft. During its second appearance at Oskosh in 1976, Burt was already prepared with the marketing as plans were offered for sale as early as July of that year. Four years later, an estimated 2,000 units of the homebuilt design were under construction and about 300 were up flying by the latter end of that year. Both VariEze and the modified design, the LongEze were constructed more than any other homebuilt design during the period. The Rutan Aircraft Factory ceased the selling of plans in 1985. 

A pair of LongEzes on a flight demo

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            The VariEze achieved what Burt Rutan had envisioned for a homebuilt aircraft of that time, a spin resistant design platform made possible by the utilization of canards. The pusher configuration also enhanced the design’s capability to achieve efficient, long range cruise. As for the aircraft’s landing gears, the nose gear was configured to retract while on parking considering it has the tendency to tip over its back (except when the pilot is aboard the cockpit) thus endangering damage to the propeller. This explains why most VariEze and LongEzes were seen with noses kissing the ground on static displays or while on parking at the ramp. As of the record based on the NTSB database from 1976 to 2005, out of 130 total accidents 46 of which were fatal had been accounted (including John Denver’s death on this particular type, a LongEze back in October 1997) from about 800 flying types where 691 were still registered by 2005. 

The LongEze, same type which figured folk/country singer John Denver on a fatal crash back in 1997

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• Fuel capacity: 25 U.S. gal (95 L).

• Typical empty weight: 700 lb (320 kg).

• Cruise speed: 160 kt (181 mph, 291 km/h) at 5.1 U.S. gal/h (19.3 L/h).

• Range (at cruise speed): 575 nautical miles (650 statute miles, 1065 km).

• Max. Speed (level flight): 185 kt (210 mph, 340 km/h).

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Comments (5)

i wish i could fly an airplane job kabayan

How I wish i could fly with you Will. Ace write again men! Thumbs up!

What a great discussion. It's amazing it was homemade.

Another fantastic article in your area of expertise. Sounds and looks like a fund plane to fly although I had not realized John Denver had died in one of these planes. Great stuff Will. Sorry I'm out of votes for today but will buzz this up and tweet!!

The second proto-type definitely looks really cool in formation with the other. Small aircrafts, but effective and pretty unique looking. I'm not too sure I would hop aboard, but I know of your passions for flight and aircrafts. Pretty interesting planes, for sure Will.