Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rutan Brothers' Birthday Bash

This weekend saw the Mojave Airport being once again invaded with "fast glass"...dozens and dozens of home-built aircraft, most of which were Burt Rutan designs. The occasion? The celebration of the Rutan Brothers' birthdays, a Mojave-style bash with the theme of "Around and Out of this World". Dick's birthday is July 1 (he'll be 70) and Burt's is June 17 (a spry 65). This year's bash was a repeat of the one five years ago, but with the roll-out of White Knight Two imminent - and the Scaled hangar doors firmly closed against sneak peaks - the celebration was held on the east end of Mojave's flightline, away from the company's buildings. Instead, Flight Test Associates and XCOR Aerospace helped host the festivities - which also served as a benefit for the Mojave Transportation Museum - and also showed off the ultimates in small canard aircraft: the EZ-Rocket and the Velocity-based Rocket Racer.

To the cheer of the crowd, Robert Sherer's gorgeous Beech Starship, the "big brother" to the multitudes of Long-EZs present, taxied into position at the head of the pack. Since Raytheon decided to seek out and destroy most of the existing Starships, there reportedly is now only five left flying in the US.

During the ceremonies, Dick Rutan was presented with a special honor from XCOR's Chief Test Engineer, Doug Jones, who honored Dick with a plaque commemorating his being named the innaugural member of The 7700 Club, a humorous poke at all the in-flight emergencies Dick has managed to live through. During his Air Force career, Dick twice had to eject from his F-100 Super Saber, once from enemy fire, and once from an engine failure (for his service to America, Dick received the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals and a Purple Heart...quite the collection!). As Jones said, the plaque was presented in "recognition of his round-the-world flight (one long continuous emergency) and all his other adventures involving over-enthusiastic rocket engines, popped balloons, the North Pole, runaway trim, blown cylinders... since he's had to squawk the emergency transponder code so many times, and the number seven has new meaning for him, he might as well do it all the time, save some effort."

Highlights of the 2003 Bash

No comments: