Burt Rutan Releases Details on His New Aircraft Design

New plane to feature retractable ski system.

Burt Rutan recently unveiled preliminary details about his brand new aircraft design, a rugged two-seater outfitted with a retractable ski system that will allow the airplane to operate in rough waves around the world, both in fresh and saltwater alike.

Aptly named the SkiGull, the airplane will be built of composites or titanium — no aluminum — in order to allow operation in the harsh environment of seawater. It is projected to have a cruise speed of 170 knots and, according to Rutan, should have the range to make the trip from Hawaii to California without ferry tanks.

“Imagine going to snow fields anywhere there is around 400 feet of relatively smooth snow, or to a dirt patch right at Puma Punku, or any part of the Amazon, including the tiny rivers that feed it,” says Rutan. “Imagine doing an eight-month exploration trip around the world without ever going to an airport.”

The SkiGull has not yet flown, but Rutan says that if it does he will use it to travel the world with his wife, Tonya.

Rutan, who retired from the aerospace company he founded, Scaled Composites, in 2011, has been working on the design for the past few years. It is also the subject for an upcoming documentary about the legendary aviation innovator, titled Looking Up, Way Up! The Burt Rutan Story, which is currently under development by the award-winning team behind the SpaceShipOne film Black Sky: Winning the X Prize.

The team has launched a grass-roots fundraising campaign on kickstarter.com to fund the new film, and has currently raised more than $39,000 of its $80,000 goal.

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