MOJAVE — Last Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Directors of Mojave Air and Space Port was a virtual who’s who of the modern rocket and aviation world found on campus at the iconic Spaceport in Mojave, all of whom turned out to support an initiative to add “Rutan Field” to the legendary airport/spaceport’s famous name.
The concept is to honor of two of its original and most famous modern residents: American aviation genius Burt Rutan, who founded The Rutan Aircraft Factory in 1974 at MASP, and then Scaled Composites in 1982; and brother Dick Rutan, American legendary pilot, American veteran, and record setting aviator. And the rest is aviation history.
Among Burt’s accomplishments, as listed by Wikipedia, he is “noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He designed the record-breaking Voyager, which in 1986 was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbital spaceplane SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 for becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space twice within a two-week period. With his VariEze and Long-EZ designs, Rutan is responsible for helping popularize both the canard configuration and the use of moldless composite construction in the homebuilt aircraft industry.
“He has designed 46 aircraft throughout his career, been the co-recipient of the Collier Trophy on two separate occasions, received six honorary doctoral degrees, and has won over 100 different awards for aerospace design and development. Rutan has five aircraft on display in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., United States: SpaceShipOne, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, Voyager, Quickie, and the VariEze.”
In short, the Rutanas are American treasures, and most of Burt’s and Dick’s accomplishments, records set, close calls, failures, and victories, happened at the Mojave Air and Space Port. To recognize this rich history and to acknowledge their contributions to the iconic airport (the world’s first “Spaceport”), two of its biggest supporters, Cory Bird and Cathy Hansen, came up with the idea to add the Rutan name to the airport officially.
Bird is the Scaled Composites Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, who has been with Scaled over 28 years now, and Hansen of Mojave Transportation Museum is the founder and force behind the monthly Plane Crazy Saturdays events (hosted the third Saturday of every month) where special guest aviators and even astronauts stop by to give lectures on all things that fly, while outside Voyager Restaurant planes of all kinds are parked out on the tarmac for guests to look over and take pictures of. Admission is always free.
They came up with “Rutan Field,” and proposed it to MASP GM/CEO Karina Drees and two members of the Board, asking that they add the name officially.
On hand at Tuesday’s meeting to support the idea was Mike Melvill, the world’s first commercial astronaut, who was named Rutan’s test pilot in 1982 and was one of the test pilots of SpaceShipOne. He also flew around the world with Dick Rutan in 80 nights, flying two Long Exes of Burt’s design. The flight was called “The Spirit of EAA Friendship Tour.”
Also on hand in support was Zack Reeder, who is a test pilot for Scaled Composites since 2015, and been with the company for almost 14 years. The current President of Scaled Composites, Ben Diachun, also lent his support suggesting ways in which MASP could benefit from the use of the now well-established “Rutan Brand.”
The board room was packed with supporters of the idea, and the newly shuffled Board of Directors, just sworn in minutes before this idea came before them, promised to seek a way to accomplish the name addition, bringing it back on agenda for their next meeting, where the concept could then be approved and the name addition move forward. Mojave Air and Space Port — Rutan Field, or Rutan Field — Mojave Air and Space Port. It is now is in the hands of the Board and Administration.
As mentioned above, the Board of Directors of MASP did their annual shuffling of the Board, as with one motion, all existing members merely switched positions, with Andrew Parker becoming the Chairman, formerly held by David Evans, who is now Treasurer. Vice Chairman is now Bill Deaver, with Jim Ballantine becoming Secretary and Director Allred remaining in his current position.
Mentioned during the meeting in relation to the Rutans was last week’s successful first runway test of Stratolaunch, the concept of late founder Paul Allen, with whom Burt partnered developing a new “Air Launch to Orbit” system, and who was the sole sponsor of SpaceShipOne. During the test run, the front wheels of the “World’s largest aircraft” lift vehicle got off the ground. More tests are forthcoming.
Hansen mentioned the upcoming Plane Crazy on Saturday, Jan. 19, where PCS would be celebrating its 10th anniversary hosting the event at MASP! Special guest speaker was Joe Biviano, who was recently awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award by the FAA. He was to speaking on the effects of age on piloting.