After serving with the U.S. Air Force as a flight test project engineer at Edwards Air Force Base, Burt Rutan became the director of the Bede Test Center for Bede Aircraft in Newton, KS. With the experience and a strong interest in aircraft design and manufacturing, he formed the Rutan Aircraft Factory in Mojave, CA in 1974 to develop light, homebuilt aircraft. This company developed the VariViggen, VariEze, NASA AD-, Quickie, Defiant, Long-EZ, Grizzly, scaled NGT trainer, Solitare, Catbird, and the all-composite Voyager (which flew around the world on a single tank of fuel.
In April 1982, he founded Scaled Composites to develop research aircraft. Scaled has become the world’s most productive aerospace prototype development company. Aircraft they produced include a single-seat, twin-jet, the subscale T-46A demonstrator for Fairchild Republic, a two-seat, single-engine recreational aircraft (Microlight proof of concept) for Group Lotus, Ltd., an eleven seat, twin turboprop high performance business aircraft (85% scale Starship 1 prototype) for Beech Aircraft, a large agricultural aircraft (full scale Predator proof of concept) for DARPA, a reconnaissance aircraft (full scale CM-44 UAV prototype) for DARPA, a tandem wing, three surface technology demonstration (62% Advanced Technology Tactical Transport) for DARPA, and the short run production of an all composite reconnaissance UAV (Model 324 Scarab) for Teledyne Ryan.
Scaled was responsible for structural design, tooling, and manufacture of the Orbital Sciences Corp. Pegasus rocket wing, fillets, and fins. Scaled developed the Earthwinds gondola for a global, non-stop balloon record attempt, the McDonnell-Douglas DC-X Single Stage Rocket Technology 1/3 scale proof of concept vehicle. They also developed the design and fabricated the structure for two Bell Eagle Eye tilt-rotor UAV demonstrators, the VisionAire Business Jet demonstrator, and three NASA X-38 Crew Return Vehicle structures.
Rutan has been President/CEO of Scaled since its inception in 1982. Scaled was sold to Beech Aircraft in 1985, which was subsequently acquired by Wyman-Gordon Co. in 1989. Rutan led a group of provate investors to require Scaled in 2000. In 2007, Northrop Grumman acquired Scaled after years of being a major shareholder of the company. Rutan retired in 2011.
Rutan was recognized by SAMPE with the presentation of its Lubin Award in 1995. The Lubin Award is given for significant contributions in the field of material and process engineering.