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  • Ryszard Zadow

2020 RAFE Presidents Annual Report on the State of the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience.

I’m a huge believer in the power of positive thinking. When you focus on the positive it becomes contagious. Proof of that is how despite many people being very negative about the year 2020, I believe the power of positive thinking helped create some very positive things for the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience.

Hard Act to Follow.

RAFE helped EAA assemble a flying presentation of Rutan designs that flew during the 2019 AirVenture airshow. At least one example of each of Burts homebuilt designs flew before the airshow spectators.. It’s hard to believe that had never been done before. The response to it was incredible. We were approached by the organizers of Sun-n-Fun and several other airshows and asked if we could do that there and of course I said “Yes!”. The effort to get all those airplanes and pilots together at Airventure was no easy task, but the enthusiasm from the airplane owners and Pilots leaves me to believe given the opportunity we can do it again and again. Seeing all the Rutan homebuilt designs flying at the same time was a huge crowd pleaser.

I had great hopes that we’d be able to do that again in 2020 but alas it was not to be. That doesn’t change my commitment to making our flying display of Rutan designs an annual event at AirVenture and other venues.

North Texas Canard Base Expanding The Aircraft Sponsor program is a key component of the RAFE mission. Our donated aircraft are funded by Sponsors who act as the caretakers of these aircraft. Jeff Goodrich was our first Aircraft Sponsor and the founder of the North Texas Canard Base. He’s done an outstanding job not just taking responsibility of the Martin Kennedy LongEZ but recruiting new Sponsors to “preserve and promote” Rutan designs. Here’s his report:

The RAFE North Texas Canard Base is going well with two Aircraft Sponosrs of the Kennedy LongEZ and another Sponsor application recently submitted. Though 2020 was pretty much the same for everyone, with canceled plans and airshows amongst the many fly-ins that were put on the back burner, we seemed to make it through just fine.

The Covid calamity and weather relegated us to mostly local area flying, though we did try to attempt getting to annual Rough River Fly-In and Kanab. Weather halted the Rough River trip in McCallister, OK and the Kanab trip in Las Vegas, the one in New Mexico not the gambling mecca. With few other places to go and despite flying around the patch getting a little old, we still managed to put some hours on the Kennedy LongEZ. Now we’re eager to go more places, after all the whole purpose of an airplane is to fly somewhere and a LongEZ is the perfect aircraft to do that!

If you get out this way you might want to stop into airports like F49 Slaton TX, Levelland KLLN (Literally the flattest place on earth) and though I am sure you think you have been to BFE a few times in your life, Brownfield TX's BFE is a bit more pleasant, with great runways and a cool little FBO.

The North Texas Canard Base will soon

have a new home at the Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock coming up in April. We are hoping for some donations to help secure a Uavionix UAT ADSB out transmitter to allow easy access in and out of LBB, which is a class C


Here's to 2021 which we all hope will have blue skies and plenty of flying experiences. Rough River, Kanab, OSH and many others are on our list. It is a pleasure and honor to be able to fly such a cool and well-made aircraft. If you’ve ever considered sponsoring a RAFE Canard project or plane, please feel free to contact me at

Lady Vi, the RAFE VariViggen

One of the most popular aircraft flying with us in the 2019 AirVenture airshow was the VariViggen owned and flown by Charlie Spinelli. It was at that time the only VariViggen flying. Charlie donated his Viggen to the Pima Air and Space Museum so sadly at this moment there are no flying Viggens, but that is about to change.

One of the “unintended consequences” of 2020 was with no airshows or fly-in events it allowed RAFE to focus on moving forward with some of the projects and aircraft we already had. In the fall of 2019 a VariViggen was donated to RAFE. (Read: Lady Vi: A Rare Find) ) At that time RAFE had no funding to purchase an engine for it so the challenge was where to get an engine. In the spring of 2019 RAFE member Tony Wornock enabled us to get a Continental IO-360 donated that might have been suitable for the Viggen. Unfortunately it was way too heavy. Rated at 210 horsepower it would’ve made Lady Vi a real hotrod, but it just wouldn’t work. What we needed was a Lycoming and at the end of the year a miracle happened!

RAFE supporter and AeroCanard owner Alan Blythe decided he wanted an IO-540 for his plane. In an act of selfless generosity Alan donated the IO-360 right off the back of his AeroCanard. I’m not kidding we literally unbolted it, attached it to the the engine mount for the Viggen. In one day we had an engine on Lady VI!

A whole lot of effort is going into getting Lady Vi flying this spring. An engine pushes the endeavor way forward but we’re still short a prop and all those little things that usually add up to a lot.

Every aircraft and project at RAFE is a grass-roots effort. What makes it all possible is volunteerism and donations. Thank you for all who have helped us keep the dream alive! How cool will it be to an RAFE Viggen flying at OSH this year!

Canard Flight Academy Growing.

One of the greatest contributions RAFE has been making is the Canard Flight Academy. We’ve developed a program like no other and the demand for it is constantly growing. The Canard Flight Academy was made possible by the donation of the only FAA Standard Category tandem seat composite canard-pusher in the world, our Gyro-Flug SC-160-B Speed Canard. It is well suited for dual instruction. It has dual flight controls that make it FAR91.103 complaint.

The other aircraft in the Canard Flight Academy stable is the Jim Madsen LongEZ. A fine example of an early 1980’s LongEZ it is very simple and light. It makes the transition from the Speed Canard to a LongEZ a piece of cake. This combination has made the Canard Flight Academy a single point resource for transition training to a Rutan design.

Pilots and Builders who have never flown a LongEZ from the front seat, now can. Imagine the reduced level of anxiety someone has when they are about to fly the airplane they spent years building, but have the confidence to do it because they completed our course. They no longer have any stress over how to fly a LongEZ or Varieze because they’ve already done it. In 2020 ten pilots and builders graduated from the Canard Flight Academy LongEZ transition program. That’s pretty good considering Covid and the Speed Canard didn’t’ get it’s prop back on until May of last year!

Insurance companies have taken notice. RAFE has partnered with Aviation Insurance Resources to help keep Rutan designs insurable. The payoff is starting to show. Most of those calling for training have said their insurance required a checkout from an instructor and the insurer recommended RAFE! The fine people at Aviation Insurance Resources have talked our program up with the Underwriters and now realize the value of the RAFE Canard Flight Academy. ( Click here to learn more about the Canard Flight Academy)

A Financial Foundation for our Future

Another amazing thing happened in 2020 that I personally am still in awe of. Recall in late 2019 the Speed Canard prop was damaged and needed a costly repair. We would not have a flying Speed Canard if in late 2019 a very gracious supporter helped us with a cash donation of $5000. This same person approached us in 2020 and suggested we get a brokerage account, which we did and at the end of the year our supporter transferred about $9000 of stock to our account. Surely this is money we could use to help finish the Viggen and pay our bills but the Board of Directors looked at this as a different opportunity. The stock donated pays a dividend, small, but enough to keep the account growing. RAFE now has the foundation for an endowment that with the right management can become a resource to help us one day be financially sound. Most 501c3 non-Profits have these types of accounts. We could’ve scraped up some money and opened up a brokerage account on our own but honestly we struggle to pay our bills as it is. This donation has helped make RAFE more a viable entity. Now we have another possibility for supporters that don’t have the ability to donate their aircraft, parts or cash but have financial instruments they can transfer or even consider us in their estate planning.

I’d like to reiterate that RAFE is a true grass roots non-profit and all these donations are uses strictly for the accomplishment of our mission. No one, not Officers, Not the Board of Directors gets paid

We are not like other non-profits who have executives that receive large salaries. The future of Rutan designs depends on a the ability to keep them flying! This endowment will grow and we hope it will inspire others to also use similar financial instruments to help RAFE grow. I cannot express my thanks enough for not just the donation of this stock, but the inspiration it gave to look beyond our day to day operatizing expenses into our future. Thank you!

Passing the Torch.

We are a very small organization with really big dreams. I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished so far, and the thought that our dreams are somehow beyond reason does not even enter into my mind. As Conrad Hilton once said “If you’re going to dream, dream big”.

In 2015 I stood by the Cozyjet in Boeing square telling people about the dream I had for RAFE and trying to sell t-shirts to help pay our first expenses. Everyone I spoke with was encouraging and a few flat out told me I was crazy. I didn’t argue with them because I knew I was crazy.. crazy about Rutan designs. My Varieze contributed great joy to my life. I felt certain I needed to inspire others to find that kind of joy themselves. Anyone that has flown a Rutan design knows what I’m talking about.

This journey was never intended to be a one man mission. To keep these dreams alive it must endure beyond the life of one person. No one gets out of this life alive and if my dreams pass with me then all this effort will be for not. For that reason it’s time RAFE starts looking for its future leadership. We have a fledgling Board of Directors and a few volunteers that act as Officers, but who will carry this torch into the future? I have no doubt I could do this the rest of my life, but that was never the intended goal. RAFE will not grow that way. Organizations like RAFE cannot grow if they are led by only one. They grow because many minds are better than one mind. It’s time to have many new minds. At this year’s AirVenture forums I would like to see someone else on that stage with me, someone else adding their vision, someone else ready to carry this torch. Applications are open.


There is much about this year we still do not know. Will this pandemic subside? Will airshows still go on? One thing I do know though I will not allow RAFE to stop moving forward. We will defy all odds and keep flying, keep building, keep training and keep adding to our mission to preserve and promote Burt Rutan’s designs, just like we did despite 2020.

Sincerely, Ryszard Zadow Founder and President. Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience

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