Burt Rutan – the ultimate fly guy!

By Tom Sowa, The Spokesman-Review

Burt Rutan is the ultimate fly guy. After creating innovative and eye-catching aircraft for 40 years, Rutan has amassed enough awards and aerospace trophies to fill two wall bookcases in his Coeur d’Alene home. Like many pilots and space jockeys who grew up during the 1960s American space program, Rutan lets his deeds do the talking. But if people get him started on the best way to design new aircraft or why commercial space travel is right around the corner, Rutan has plenty to say.

A search for his name on YouTube finds 688 videos showcasing his aircraft or featuring Rutan talking about his projects. Now retired, the 69-year-old aerospace engineer and his wife Tonya bought a home last year overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Word traveled fast and it didn’t take long for Rutan to establish celebrity status among the region’s aviation community.

At a recent air show at Coeur d’Alene Airport, more than a dozen people surrounded him near a single-propeller airplane parked off the runway.

Rutan was standing next to the Catbird, a plane he developed in the 1980s that set distance and speed records. It’s still renowned among airplane buffs.

Rutan checks out the Catbird, an experimental plane he designed and built, at the Coeur d’Alene Air Show on Aug. 18. Phote: Tom Sowa

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