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  • Ryszard Zadow

2019 RAFE Annual Report

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

2019 RAFE Presidents Letter of Thanks and state of the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience Report.

I said it last year and from the way the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience is growing I’m convinced I’ll be saying this every year: “What a GREAT YEAR!“

2019 was one of the best years we’ve ever had, and I can’t imagine how we could top it, but it looks like 2020 is shaping up to be ever better! Each year we build upon the successes of the previous year, we have a lot to build on now!

Getting more visibility for RAFE

The obvious “big deal” of last year was flying in the airshow at EAA AirVenture.

The significance of this for RAFE was we proved that we could deliver. We organized these Rutan designs and flew them in front of the biggest airshow crowd in the world. As our mission is to “preserve and promote Burt Rutan designs”, keeping them flying before the public is incidental to that mission. This was really a milestone for RAFE.

Flying in the EAA AirVenture airshow couldn’t have happened without the help of some very wonderful airplane owners that jumped some major hurdles to get all of these airplanes flying together that day. It was a huge accomplishment but we aren’t done yet. We can’t be. We can’t just say “Hey that was fun, let’s do it again in five years”. Burt Rutan airplanes have had so much influence on people that we should be flying in the airshow every year. This is not farfetched either. RAFE was approached by some other airshow organizers to see if we could do that again at their shows. We can. It’s a logistical challenge, but we definitely can and we are working towards that goal. Let’s hope we see this again at AirVenture 2020 and beyond.

EZE Street

The whole week at Osh was one great RAFE happening after another. Lot’s of good stories about it on the

RAFE website. The best was when Burt Rutan came by what became known as “EZE Street”. Read More:

Cover of the Rolling Stone

Sport Aviation is our version of the “Rolling Stone” and yes we made the cover!

Lead Charlie Spinelli in his VariViggen, -2; Leif Johnson in his Varieze “Speedy; -3 Ryszard Zadow flying the RAFE David Brown LongEZ; -4 Tres Clements in Catbird

Canard Base Updates

RAFE is growing geographically. Our “center of mass” is Covington, Tennessee. There are several reasons for this, the primary is the relationship we have with Robert Harris and his shop that specializes in Rutan aircraft building, repair, and modification which includes all the way up to hanging a jet engine on the back of your EZ hence the name “Jetguys”. The other reason is economic. Covington is a great facility that allows us to control costs. Two T-hangars cost the same in Covington as one does in Houston. We’ve been negotiating with the City of Covington for quite a while about acquiring a 5000 sq ft hangar with attached office spaces. This would allow us to actually have the beginnings of a real museum. The first ever “Burt Rutan Museum”.

Our Pilot Sponsorship program is our other method of maintaining a presence geographically. In just a few short years of growth we have two Canard Bases, Houston and Slaton Texas. In Houston are based the David Brown LongEZ, sponsored by RAFE President Ryszard Zadow and the Steve Wright Varieze . In Slaton is the Kennedy LongEZ sponsored by Jeff Goodrich. Here’s Jeff’s Canard base update:

2019 was an exciting year for the Lubbock Canard Base. The Kennedy LongEZ flew in the Burt Rutan Celebration at Oshkosh. It was great to see 23MT back in Boeing Plaza at OSH as it was a past champion homebuilt and a fitting tribute to Dr. Martin F Kennedy.

I was trained and signed off in the Speed Canard, by RAFE Instructor Rick Finney and transitioned into the Long EZ,

After that I flew the Kennedy LongEZ from Covington TN to its new home in Lubbock County, Texas where it now lives at F49 in Slaton TX. Winter months in West Texas are windy and cold most of the time but I managed to fly the Kennedy LongEZ to Brownfield, Colorado City and Denton TX.

With Spring on its way, plans for flying to many air events are in the works including the AOPA Fly in at San Marcus TX in May, EAA Events in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico and OSH.. Looking forward to an exciting year for the Kennedy LongEZ to spread the word about RAFE and fulfill the mission of preserving and promoting Burt Rutan homebuilt designs.

RAFE Pilot Sponsor Jeff Goodrich.

Fleet and Organizational Growth

In 2019 we grew our fleet by one flying airplane and three projects. While at Airventure we were honored to have Izzy Briggs donate his beautifully restored Varieze built by Steve Wright .

RAFE President Ryszard Zadow accepting the Steve Wright Varieze from Izzy Briggs in Boeing Plaza, AirVenture 2019

Steve Wright was a very early builder, innovator and designer of the StaggerEZ. His work on his Varieze received some very special awards including The RAF Designers Award from Burt himself. It’s a beautiful aircraft and a welcome addition to the RAFE Fleet. Read more:

We now have three flying LongEZ’s, a flying Varieze and the Speed Canard. We acquired three unfinished projects in 2019, two LongEZ’s and a Cozy III. It’s been really difficult to find sponsors for unfinished projects, but 2019 brought on a whole new opportunity to do something with unfinished projects donated to us. Considering our mission is “To Preserve and Promote Burt Rutan’s homebuilt designs”, how we do that is not as important as is getting more people involved, and Rutan designs flying. The next two stories are in a lot of ways more important than any new airplane donations or airshow flying. Two things occurred that I never saw coming and I am very excited about them.


STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. On my back-burner was a project that had a few false-starts but was really something I’d wanted to get moving. I just didn’t know how, or have the luxury of time to do everything by myself. One thing is very obvious, RAFE cannot continue to grow without more people getting involved. One thing not too obvious to me was how many people are recognizing RAFE and wanting to get involved. One day last fall my phone rings while I’m sanding on the CozyJet. I was tempted to let it go to voicemail as I was covered head to toe with micro dust, wearing a mask and gloves, holding a pneumatic inline sander. Something caused me to answer that phone though, and on the other end was someone named Rich Babin. We’ve never met but he’d heard of RAFE. He told me he had the foundation of an aircraft build program that he has convinced his local school district to support. He wanted to know if we had any unfinished projects we’d consider giving them to get this program started. I dropped everything and we talked for an hour. This was EXACTLY what we needed! Aircraft build projects aren’t something new. Build-a-Plane programs have been around for a while but no one is doing them with composites like Rutan designs. Rich has worked tirelessly to get this program going and I’m proud to say he has succeeded. Below is his story.

My daughter inspired the program. She wants to earn her pilot's license and has followed my work toward building my own plane with interest and enthusiasm. The High School STEM program she attends offers ground school so I just had to figure out how to get her hands on time building and an internship to get her license. Then the local EAA chapter was approached by a builder looking to donate his partially complete Quickie Q2/200 to a good cause. I collected the plane and mapped a program to integrate the build into Project Lead The Way (PLTW) curriculum.

Despite my enthusiasm I've never built an airplane. To get the program going I needed help. RAFE is the only organization with the experience and expertise necessary to ensure the build was safe and complete. Then I learned that there were more aircraft like the Q2/200 that needed to be completed. I realized we have the opportunity for a long-term program.

Currently we're looking to begin the first build in fall 2020. Talbot County Maryland, Chamber of Commerce and the public schools, and Easton Airfield (KESN) have signed on as partners and host. The airfield will provide space for the work and access to mechanics and instructor pilots for the students. The schools are integrating the program into their STEM programs from 6th to 12th grade. Once the program is finalized we'll be bringing a build to the county every year for a new team of builders to complete.

This is HUGE! Rich Babin has single-handedly launched a program that I was only dreaming about. There are several experienced builders in his area that have volunteered to help guide this project. When it’s completed the aircraft will be sold and the proceeds go to a program to fund the participating students flight lessons. It’s a win-win! RAFE accomplishes it’s mission of getting another Rutan design in the air and at the same time expands the ranks of Rutan builders and Pilots! Thank you Rich Babin. Thank you to all the donors of these projects. If you know of a project laying dormant please get in touch with us. We have a great opportunity to get young people involved and more airplanes flying.

The next thing that is huge was a forum RAFE held last year at AirVenture. I took a chance and scheduled a forum with just an idea. It was a big risk, but the reward was unbelieveable. The Forum was titled “The Future of Rutan Homebuilt Designs Symposium”. It was a totally impromptu gathering of some very smart people. On stage that day was Dwayne Swing, owner of Velocity Aircraft; - Robert Harris, JetGuys owner; - Paul Harrop of AOPA Live; - Leanard Mullholland, -who has built 14 airplanes and sells plans for 4 of his own designs including the Legal Eagle, - and he is 96 years old!; - and Richard VanGrunsven Founder of Van’s Aircraft.

Left to Right: Lenoard Mullholland, Dwayne Swing, Paul Harrop, Dick Vangrunsven and Robert Harris:

The wealth of knowledge was amazing! The forum was an open-mike session to allow the audience to ask these pillars of homebuilding the question “Where do Rutan designs go from here? “ It was enlighting and I encourage you to follow the link in the article and watch the whole thing. The topics varied, but one struck home. Dick VanGrusven is Chairman of the the EAA Safety Committee. He described to us the safety record of “orphaned “ designs. It was kind of shocking to realize, yes, we are “orphaned” designs and our safety record is not as good as we’d hoped. There’s so much to learn from a forum like this and we will do this again. Enjoy the video and thanks to Paul Harrop and AOPA for helping capture this event. See video and Read more:

Last summer we were thrilled to have Charlie Spinelli fly with us

at OSH in his VariViggen, the

only one flying in the country, or the world as far as we know, for now.. sorry Charlie..

...RAFE will have one soon!

That’s right! In the fall of 2019 RAFE acquired it’s own VariViggen!

Follow the link to an incredible story that gets us one more step closer to our goal of having at least one flying example of Burt Rutan’s homebuilt designs. Read more:

If it were only that easy. Like all, these projects they take time, effort and funding. If all we had to do was get a Viggen in the air we’d be so lucky.

Speed Canard Props are expensive

The RAFE Canard Flight Academy trained 18 new Canard Pilots in 2019. Nowhere else can you get front seat time in a tandem seat Canard with a highly experienced Canard Instructor in the back seat and do it legally, but more importantly safely. The Speed Canard has been a real blessing and the enthusiasm for Canard flight training is growing. 2020 will be an even busier year for our RAFE Instructors.

Petra Sabotka ready for her check out in the Speed Canard

One of the first observations made when we acquired the Speed Canard was how careful we had to be with it’s MT prop. Sadly, we suffered a blade delamination in mid-November. We’ve also been having challenges keeping the nose gear system working correctly. Our Speed Canard is Standard Category so we can’t just go putting a nose lift in it like we have in our EZ’s. Parts are very difficult to find. We’ve got some major things to fix with this plane. RAFE actually finished the year with some money in the bank but as a fledlging 501c3 non-profit, not what it takes to make major repairs like this. The MT prop will need to be overhauled and repaired and that alone will cost upwards of $7500. The gear parts, if we can find them, won’t be cheap. This airplane has made such a huge contribution that it is worth the effort and expense to keep it flying. The RAFE Canard Flight Academy has become one of our top priorities. Its significance has not gone unoticed, and I’m very pleased to announce that at the end of the year we received our largest financial donation ever, $5000. This lets us breath much easier but we’re not out of the woods yet. Every aviation publication is now talking about insurance rates rising. As our fleet has grown and projects like the Quickie and Variviggen go into full swing we are fast approacing the point where t-shirt sales will no longer cut it. RAFE, like most 501c3 non-profits, exist on volunteerism and donations.

Though JetGuys will be donating a large part of the labor, volunteers are still welcome to help. Come to Covington and learn about Rutan Canards. There’s plenty to do!

2020 will be a great year

With the possibility of adding two new Rutan designs to our fleet, getting the RAFE Canard Flight Academy flying as weather improves, and working towards more opportunities to fly in airshows around the country, we are going to get very busy. Though we have a lot of cool airplanes, our biggest assets are our people. Rutan enthusiasts are hard-working, dedicated types who go above and beyond. It’s absolutely amazing to think how far we come in such a short time. Just think where we can be in the same short time in the future! Just like launching a homebuilt into space, the possibilities are endless!


Ryszard Zadow Founder and President. Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience

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