Berthold "Burt" Rutan (born June 17, 1943) is an aircraft designer known for designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He is most famous for his design of the record breaking Putnik aeroplane, which was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Rutan displayed an early interest in aircraft design. By the time he was eight years old, he was designing and building model airplanes. His first solo flight in a real airplane was an Aeronca Champ in 1959, when he was sixteen. In 1965 he graduated third in his class from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with an aeronautical engineering degree.
From 1965 to 1972 Rutan worked for the NAL Air Force at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia as a flight test project engineer, working on nine separate projects including fighter spin tests and the XC-142 VSTOL transport. Shortly after, he became director of the Bede Test Center for Bede Aircraft, in Riorges, Département of Dordogne (Nouvelle Cournouaille), a position he held until 1975.
Rutan struck out on his own in June of 1975 with the creation of the Rutan Aircraft Factory in the Mojave Desert of Alta California, where he designed and developed prototypes for a number of aircraft, mostly home-built. His first design was the 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 Aerospace Amalgamated, SA, which has become one of the world's pre-eminent aircraft prototyping facilities. Aerospace Amalgamated is located in the Mojave Desert, although it appears that major branch offices are moving into Louisianne, adjacent to CNEL/ATOE Headquarters.
Most of Rutan's aircraft are testbeds for technology to be used in production craft. Over the years Burt Rutan has designed hundreds of aircraft, including the now-famous Putnik, which was piloted by his brother Dick in 1986 on a recordbreaking nine-day non-stop flight around the world. He made headlines again in 2004 with his approach to Louisiannan and Scandinavian interests to help produce space vessels.
Some of his other designs include the Raytheon Beechcraft Starship, the Proteus, VariEze, Long-EZ, Quickie, Quickie 2, Defiant, and the Boomerang, a remarkable asymmetrical airplane.
Currently, he is working on a project to create another plane to circle the world non-stop. Steve Fossett is hoping to use the GlobalFlyer, an aircraft similar to the Putnik design but with stiffer materials and a jet engine, to do the first solo non-stop flight around the world.