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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS Feed Why Boomerang Was Hangared for Nine Years
Burt Rutan and Tres Clements
Burt Rutan and Tres Clements examine the Boomerang's panel, which originally included a 1996-era Mac Powerbook laptop.
Burt Rutan flying Boomerang
Burt in the right seat back in the 1990s with the Mac Powerbook.

Related article: Boomerang Coming Back to AirVenture

By Burt Rutan, EAA Lifetime 26033

I first flew the Boomerang in 1996. To get it flying, I removed the engine and nosegear from my Catbird, an aircraft I would not want to fly after I had a twin-engine airplane (most of my flying time has been in the twin-engine Defiant). In 1998 I had a MI (myocardial infarction), which seemed like a minor event, but the diagnosis was that it was a heart attack, a blockage in an artery leading to the back of the heart. It was fixed by angioplasty, the placement of a stent to open up the artery. After that I did not try to update my medical, since I understood that it would involve a bunch more medical tests and I did not desire to ever fail an FAA Airman's medical. I continued to fly the Boomerang, using a copilot that was defined as Pilot in Command. By 2002 I was flying less, due to very high workload on the SpaceShipOne program. I did not intentionally "hangar" the Boomerang..its last flight was a golf trip with Brian Binnie and it returned with no squawks.

By late 2004, after SS1 was complete, I realized that to fly the Boomerang again it would require a bunch of maintenance and annual inspection and I did not yet have the time to do the needed avionics upgrades. So I just let it sit in the T-hangar.

Also, in 2002 I had some electrical problems with my heart and had to be fitted with an implanted cardiac defibrillator. I now knew that it was not likely that I could ever get my Medical back. I essentially just accepted that I would not be flying as pilot in command and replaced those urges with a challenge - to be as good a golfer as I could. In fact, I did find that it is just as rewarding to hit a green with a 3-wood as to make a good crosswind landing; maybe because the golf shot is a lot harder to do!

I had essentially given up as a pilot when I had my very serious heart problem in the fall of 2007. I had open-chest surgery in February 2008 to fix a very rare heart disease that nearly killed me.

So, the Boomerang sat, forgotten in a T-hangar, for about nine years. When I was preparing to retire and move away from California I had to do something about the parked Catbird and Boomerang. I had actually planned to fly the Boom just once more - a ferry flight to the EAA museum where I would remove the right engine and the nosegear to facilitate getting the Catbird back in operation. After getting the Boomerang out and washing it I found that its systems were still working well, even the old Mac laptop which recorded and displayed the engine and flight data. I realized that if the Boomerang went to a museum it would never fly again. I could not accept that, because the Boom is unique - the only twin with its special safety characteristics (the boom can fly at full aft stick, single engine, with the pilot's feet off the rudder pedals, a very big safety advantage) and performance (263 knots cruise on TIO 360s, and over 2300 NM range at economy cruise).

The solution was to find someone who could enjoy its features and would work to restore it and to keep it flying indefinitely. Tres turned out to be that person.

BTW, the Catbird was taken over by another Scaled engineer, Zach Reeder, who installed a newly-purchased engine and fitted a Beech Duchess nosegear.

If all goes well, these two high performance Rutan-designed airplanes will be at Oshkosh this year!


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