Rutan Long-EZ: The Ultimate Homebuilt Aircraft?

long ez  Rutan Long-EZ: The Ultimate Homebuilt Aircraft?(Image: Arpingstone, public domain)

In the eccentric world of homebuilt aircraft, they don’t come much more sleek than the Rutan Model 61 Long-EZ.  The design may look modern, but the prototype (derived from the VariEze) first flew in June 1979.  Built by the Rutan Aircraft Factory (now called Scaled Composites and owned by Northrop Grumman), the Long-EZ has a range of 2,000 miles with 700 airframes registered with the FAA as of 2005.

long ez 2  Rutan Long-EZ: The Ultimate Homebuilt Aircraft?(Image: NOAA, public domain)

Sporting canards forward of the cockpit and wing-tip rudders, the pilot sits in a semi-reclined position and controls the aircraft with a side-stick, in a similar manner to the F-16.  With an additional fuel tank instead of a passenger seat, the little homebuilt aircraft can achieve an impressive range of 4,800 miles.

ez rocket  Rutan Long-EZ: The Ultimate Homebuilt Aircraft?(Image: Alan Radecki, cc-sa-3.0)

Dick Rutan and test pilot Mike Melvill flew two Long-EZs around the world, staying aloft for over 14 hours on some legs.  A follow-on to the rocket engine powered EZ-Rocket technology demonstrator (above), called the Mark-1 X-Racer, was considered for the Rocket Racing League, but ultimately lost out to the Velocity SE.

long ez 3  Rutan Long-EZ: The Ultimate Homebuilt Aircraft?(Image: Guinnog, cc-sa-3.0)

Several Long-EZ aircraft have crashed over the years, including one notable accident on October 12, 1997, which killed singer-songwriter John Denver.  While Denver was an experienced pilot, the cause of the crash was attributed to a faulty fuel selector valve exaccerbated by Denver’s unfamiliarity with the aircraft.

rutan long ez  Rutan Long-EZ: The Ultimate Homebuilt Aircraft?(Image: Arpingstone, public domain)

A similar design supposedly built by TASK Research, known as the TASK Vantage, has been linked to a classified project conducted on behalf of Northrop.  This experimental aircraft, resembling the Long-EZ, is said to have been fitted with a Williams F107 turbofan engine around 1993.  Interestingly, the TASK Vantage appears on the FAA Register as owned by Scaled Composites, although its current whereabouts are unknown.