Burt Rutan Building SkiGull to Explore the World

March 24, 2015
Looking Up, Way Up! the Burt Rutan Story will explore the aerospace legend’s astonishing career through the lens of Rutan’s current project making of this new, groundbreaking aircraft.

March 23, 2015 – Scott B and Sandy Guthrie of antennaFILMS release details about Burt Rutan’s visionary new plane and as part of the current Kickstarter campaign for their documentary Looking Up, Way Up! the Burt Rutan Story. The film will explore the aerospace legend’s astonishing career through the lens of Rutan’s current project making of this new, groundbreaking aircraft.

Recognized as the world’s foremost living designer of things that fly, Burt Rutan is also a prolific inventor: airfoils for America’s Cup sailboats, windmills, an exponentially more power-efficient housing design, even golf clubs … to name a few. Rutan has designed 46 manned aircraft that have flown, five of which are on permanent display in the Smithsonian. His Voyager was the first aircraft to circle the globe without refueling. His
appropriately named SpaceShipOne was the world’s the first commercial space ship.

Rutan’s Walter Mitty Vision

Underlying the best of Rutan’s designs is the promise of freedom: the freedom to escape from a pedestrian existence, to escape from the bonds of the earth and soar. With this, his last design, he is even plotting to break free of the constraints of normal aeronautical practice. He’s building a plane that he plans to be able to take on “an eight-month exploration trip around the world without EVER going to an airport.”

“I am working on a method to do the exploration with all of it being in good weather - I need to avoid any severe conditions, especially strong surface winds that can destroy an airplane tied up on a beach or river and unable to find a hangar for shelter. To do this requires a retired crew that is not stuck to a schedule or a planned route.

“Think about it; a planned route just takes you to the places you know about, and likely to places that other “tourists” go. That is NOT exploration. Instead, you need to be driven by some unknown random function to give you those cool opportunities to discover unknown fantastic places scattered about the boring landscape (or seascape).

“I have been gathering data every day from this website to validate the crazy idea that by merely staying in large high-pressure systems (or using the 2,400 nm range at 23k ft or half that range at 170 knots to side step to an adjacent high-pressure system), you can do the whole multi-month exploration, all in good weather." — Burt Rutan
http://earth.nullschool.net/#2014/11/08/0000Z/wind/surface/level/overlay=mean_sea_lev el_pressure/equirectangular=-86.75,-0.41,291


What kind of plane does Rutan require to be able to achieve this ultimate freedom?
Here are few of SkiGull’s salient features:
• Two in-line seats (comfortable for 6’8” person)
• Huge cargo space (large enough to accommodate skis, golf clubs, etc.)
• Flight-adjustable CG
• Tri-hull
• Retractable carbon fiber skis with large stroke and small, easily replaced wheels
• Able to takeoff from and land on nearly any surface— snow, ice, ocean swells, rivers, lakes, dirt, fields, roads, airports
• 44 foot wingspan
• L/D of 23
• STOL capable — 400 foot take off and landing
• Rotax engine (modification of a certified engine, turbo, E-fuel injection, flightadjustable prop, 130 max BHP)
• Uses car/marine gas (aviation fuel unnecessary)
• Seawater compatible materials throughout— zero aluminum
o Composite flight controls using iGus bearings
• Docking System— two 5” diameter electric motors driving 27” folding props

SkiGull’s Estimated Performance:
• Electric motors provide 150 lbs of thrust
o safety backup in case of main engine failure
o enable plane to fly around to land into the wind on tree-lined lakes
o 8-mile range without main engine
o additional thrust to assist over-gross weight takeoff
• 60 MPG
• 2,400 nautical mile range at 23,000 feet
• 1,200 nm at 170 knots
• Single garage parking— wings fold and 5-foot wing tip panels remove
• Accessory wheels allow it to self-trailer
• Able to loiter for 35 hours at 15% power (1700 RPM) making it inaudible from below at 400 feet above ground level


After moving to Couer d’Alene, Idaho into a home overlooking the lake, Rutan spent months fashioning a museum with cases full of trophies, gazing out over the water, taking pictures of the remarkable sunsets and watching boats wend their way across the lake. If exploring the lake in a boat were fun, Rutan thought, a boat with wings would be even more fun; he could explore all of the beautiful nearby lakes as well. He
antennaFILMS 3 started thinking about a flying boat that could make the leap from one lake to the next in little hops.

Lake Couer d’Alene is large enough to generate surface waves that can make it challenging for conventional flying boats to takeoff and land, so he designed a largestroke ski system to dampen the bumps — and started testing a configuration he dubbed the “Penguin.” He confirmed the hydrodynamic performance of the tri-hull/ski design in 2013.

As he worked through the details, other opportunities offered themselves to him. Small wheels embedded in the retractable skis could enable the plane to take off and land just about anywhere. Wouldn’t it be still more fun to be able to explore… wherever he wished…?

"My 2011 retirement started with a year not doing any design/build, and questioning if I had the persistence to develop another acft [aircraft]. I then spent 2 years doing preliminary designs of a very special airplane, the SkiGull.” — Burt Rutan. 


“Burt started as a nine year-old kid having fun making and competing model airplanes,’ says co-director Scott B, “The wonderful thing is that he’s still having fun; he’s still playing; he still has the kid in his eyes.” His co-director Sandy Guthrie agrees, “We think that Burt’s story has the power to ignite the creativity and excitement in children of all ages.”

If you are interested in more information please find their Kickstarter fundraising page at: http://j.mp/Kickstarter-LookingUpWayUp

To learn more about antennaFILMS you can find them online at: http://www.antennafilms.com