The aviation industry looks to Burt Rutan for fast solutions on small-aircraft concepts.
"The reason we get this work is related to schedule," he said. "We can do it quickly."
Rutan is president and chief executive officer of Scaled Composites LLC, an aerospace and specialty polymer-matrix-composite development firm located at the Mojave, Calif., airport.
Rutan has been selected to receive the 2001 J.H. "Jud" Hall Composites Manufacturing Award.
Rutan was an Air Force flight test project engineer, civilian test center director and light home-built aircraft developer. He has created 29 new airplane types over 29 years. Rutan gained fame in 1986 for his all-composite Voyager, the only airplane to fly around the world nonstop without refueling.
He approaches aviation as a renegade uncomfortable with bureaucracy.
"A creative thinker must have confidence in nonsense," he said in a telephone interview. His path to creativity: "Get away from background clutter, think of new solutions."
Rutan works easily on in-house projects but acknowledges that he is "not a very good team player working with large organizations or government bureaucracies."
He believes a manager should set a goal, find the money, stay clear of the creative process, accept multiple failures and applaud inventors' courage.
"The innovator should be the one to decide whether to take a risk," he said, "and it should be OK for him to get rich if he has a breakthrough."
Two of Rutan's recent projects:
- Scaled Composites built a twin-engine proof-of-concept aircraft for Adam Aircraft Industries LLC of Englewood, Colo., using founder Rick Adam's idea. The makers vacuum-bagged single-cure composite parts for major structural components — sans fasteners or secondary bonds. The first flight was March 21.
"We are the first one to fly single-cure parts," Rutan said.
In Oct. 25-27 flights, the Scaled Composites-designed Proteus achieved a peak altitude of 62,786 feet and other pending records for altitude. The firm's two-person crew wore full-pressure suits. The project was sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Office of Earth Science. The goal: a high-altitude atmospheric science and remote sensing airborne platform.
Scaled Composites employs 150 with skills such as conceptual, structural and aeronautical design, tooling, fabrication, structural assembly and structural and flight testing.
Rutan founded the business in 1982 and continued as the operator after selling in 1985 to Beech Aircraft Corp. Wyman-Gordon Co. acquired Beech in 1989, and Precision Castparts Inc. bought Wyman-Gordon in 1999.
Rutan along with 10 other investors reacquired the business in October.
The Composites Manufacturing Association of the Dearborn, Mich.-based Society of Manufacturing Engineers will present the Jud Hall award Feb. 22 in Orlando, Fla., during SME's Composites Manufacturing & Tooling 2001 conference and exhibition.
The award is given annually and recognizes an individual for leadership, technical developments, patents or educational activities.