Rutan, Burt (Elbert Leander Rutan) [key], 1943–, American aerospace engineer, b. Portland, Oreg., grad. California Polytechnic Univ. (B.S. 1965). From 1965 to 1972 Rutan worked for the U.S. Air Force as a flight test project engineer, developing an expertise in aircraft flying qualities. He founded (1974) his own company, the Rutan Aircraft Factory, to develop light aircraft, and became known for his distinctive designs for the homebuilt aircraft market. In 1982 he founded SCALED Composites, which specializes in developing prototypes for aerospace projects. Rutan designed the Voyager, which his brother Dick and Jeana Yeager flew (1986) in the first nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world; SpaceShipOne, the first private vehicle to achieve suborbital (62.5 mi/100 km) spaceflight, won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for making two such flights within two weeks (Sept. 29 and Oct. 4, 2004); and the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, which Steve Fossett piloted around the world in the first nonstop, unrefueled solo flight (2005). He retired from Scaled Composites in 2011.
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