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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedFull house turns out to see Burt Rutan
By Barbara A. Schmitz, EAA AirVenture Today


Photo by Tyson Rininger
Burt Rutan spoke to a packed main stage at his “Tent Talk” forum Thursday.

July 31, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin  - Burt Rutan used to say that electric airplanes would never catch on because the electric cord would be too costly.

But the aerospace engineer known for such designs as the Voyager, the first airplane to fly non-stop around the world without refueling, and SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded spacecraft to enter space twice within a two week period and win the Ansari X Prize, said his next plane design might just be an electric one that could travel a couple hundred miles without being charged.

Rutan presented his Tent Talk show at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Thursday to a pavilion full of people who were clearly there to hear him speak rather than find a place to get out of the rain. During the 75-minute presentation, Rutan answered questions and gave his opinion on topics as varied as alternative energy to an air taxi system to NASA’s future and more. The crowd laughed at times, and applauded at others, at his candid answers.

“When are you going to design another aircraft for us?” one man questioned.

“What do you want?” Rutan responded. “I’ve said before that I got bored with it and that I ran out of ideas.”

But Rutan acknowledged he would be interested in creating a single-place hybrid plane that would operate on electricity and gasoline.

In addition, Rutan said he would like to see an air taxi system that would serve the domestic United States, allowing people to travel much faster.

“To get to a destination today you have to go to a hub and take a commuter plane to a spoke instead of flying direct,” he said. An air taxi system would operate similar to Yellow Cab in New York City.

Rutan said the 13,000 cabs in New York City allow people to travel to their destination, wherever that may be, quickly. The same concept could be used for air travel, with about 20,000 airplanes picking up travelers and taking them to the 8,000 airports nationwide, instead of the 600 airports now served by commercial airlines.

Alternative energy
Rutan said every decade, scientists predict that the world’s reserves of oil, coal, and natural gas will be used up by a certain year, which then comes and goes. Instead of coming up with alternative energy sources, Rutan said he encourages people to look at the resources with a “creative, innovative and visionary mind,” to discover how those resources could be formulated in the future.

Climate change
Rutan said the sun isn’t a thermostat for the planet, but rather that precipitation and cloud formation are. “The problem is that scientists, no matter how good they are, don’t know how to predict and model cloud formation and precipitation,” he said. “As the temperatures were going up from 1970-98, precipitation was going up. As the temperatures started dropping since 1998, precipitation has gone down.”

He said data shows that concerns about global warming are false. “CO2 is plant food, not a pollutant,” he said. “It’s been 20 times as high as it now. If you have a 1.2 percent increase in cloud formation and precipitation, it offsets a 100 percent increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

To rejuvenate NASA in the public’s eye, Rutan said the space agency needs to be daring.

“You need to give the new engineers a chance to try something that might not work,” he said. “I’d like to see NASA discover breakthroughs, because if you don’t have breakthroughs, this audience is not going to be able to spend their vacation in a vacation resort in orbit in my lifetime.”

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