Josh Wakefield and Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan
July 2005 at EAA AirVenture 2005 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan (born June 17, 1943 in Estacada, Oregon) is an American aerospace engineer noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He is most famous for his design of the record-breaking Voyager, which was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the suborbital rocket plane SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004.

Born in Estacada, Oregon, 30 miles southeast of Portland, and raised in Dinuba, California, Rutan displayed an early interest in aircraft design. By the time he was eight years old he was designing and building model aircraft. His first solo flight in a real plane was an Aeronca Champ in 1959, when he was sixteen. In 1965 he graduated third in his class from California Polytechnic University with an aeronautical engineering degree.

From 1965 to 1972 Rutan worked for the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base as a flight test project engineer, working on nine separate projects including fighter spin tests and the LTV XC-142 VSTOL transport. Shortly after, he became director of the Bede Test Center for Bede Aircraft, in Newton, Kansas, a position he held until 1974.

Rutan struck out on his own in June of 1974 with the creation of the Rutan Aircraft Factory in the Mojave Desert, where he designed and developed prototypes for a number of aircraft, mostly homebuilt. His first design was the Rutan VariViggen, a two-seat pusher with a canard in front. The canard was later to become a standard feature in most Rutan designs. In April 1982, Burt Rutan founded Scaled Composites,LLC, which has become one of the world's pre-eminent aircraft design and prototyping facilities. Scaled Composites is headquartered in Mojave, California.

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