top of page
  • Ryszard Zadow

Quick-build is a state of mind.

Dispelling the myth that Rutan designs take a long time to build.

As I travel around talking to people about the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience I hear things that I consider serious misconceptions such as Canards can't fly in rain, they're hard to land and take a long time to build. Of course these aren't true, especially the latter. Consider please that one reason Burt chose the mold-less composite construction method was it was an easy and quick way to make prototypes.

Some EZs being completed these days are projects that got started 30 years ago. Like RAFE”s David Brown LongEZ , which took David 30 years to build, these builders never gave up. Recently Tom Jewett probably set the new record for longest LongEZ build, having finally completed his after 45 years! It might be this that feeds the myth that it takes so long to build a Rutan design.

There are primarily two types of amateur-built airplanes, plans built and “kit planes”. Despite the plethora of plans for airplanes available its undeniable homebuilding now lives in a world dominated by “kit planes”. Rutan designs were never “kits”. The plans you bought from the Rutan Aircraft Factory included a list of materials. To make things convenient Aircraft Spruce and Wicks “bundled” these materials. When ACS or Wicks delivered your EZ “kit” it was mostly a stack of raw materials.

This isn’t like when a “kit plane” gets delivered. For some “kit planes” the truck delivers what is arguably an almost assembled airplane. There’s a big difference between assembling a “kit” and building practically each and every part of an airplane. Tom Wright built a LongEZ almost 40 years ago. He built almost every part himself, even sawing the metal parts out by hand. He was on a budget and used to say, "I built my LongEZ one hundred dollars at a time”. You can’t do that with a “kit plane”.

Ken Swain was a Lieutenant in the Air Force when he started building the Varieze he still flies 44 years later.

Ken Swain taxiing in from his first flight 424years ago, and below taxing at OSH 2016. Ken’s airplane has been to OSH every year since it was built including 2020.

Ken built his Varieze while he was on active duty flying C-141’s. He was the first one to install an O-235 engine and had to design and fabricate his own engine installation for it. He also built his own prop. So while flying Air Force transports all over the globe he built a Varieze and it took him only 17 MONTHS! It was the first airplane Ken ever built so you can’t claim he had an advantage of previous experience.

Ken Swain's Air Force Reserve retirement day. Ken was flying C-5’s from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He flew his Varieze all the way from his home in northern Illinois to take this picture.

Others built their LongEZ's in admirable times. Mike Melville built his LongEZ in 5 months while working full time at RAF. The late Gus Sabo used a period between jobs to focus on building his LongEZ and did it in 11 months. Bob Holliston took four years to build his second LongEZ, which was twice as long as it took to build his first one!

As you can see dedication and life events have more to do with how long it takes to build an airplane than if it’s a “quick-build kit” or not. It’s the state of mind of the builder that matters. As we all know, if we humans set our minds to something we can achieve incredible accomplishments. I recently visited the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Museum on a Dulles layover and was admiring N4EZ and the Rutan display.

There’s a paragraph on the display description of Burt flying N4EZ that says 200 Variezes were completed between the time the airplane first flew and 1980. The Varieze first flew in 1975 so that makes 200 in five years. I bet they all weren’t built on the last day of the 5th year!

One of the most important disciplines to building is keep the airplane simple and sticking to the plans. Whenever you deviate from the plans it adds time to your build. Whenever you decide to add complexity it adds time to the build. Van’s aircraft website addresses this:

<What can you do to help ensure you finish your RV in a reasonable amount of time?>

Keep the airplane simple. Extensive avionics, besides being expensive and heavy, take a lot of time to install. Even small changes to the airframe can consume mind-boggling amounts of time. A fancy paint job can add several long weeks of work. Work consistently. If you can spend a couple of hours on your project every evening, your airplane will take less time to complete than if you work one long day every weekend. Momentum is important.

Make your shop comfortable year-round. You can’t do good work if you’re miserably cold or hot, and you’ll avoid the shop… not the way to get a project done.

People don’t realize they can build these airplanes just like they can any “kit”. You may not finish it in 500 hours but you don’t need to take a decade either. These aren’t difficult to build or take 30 years. True, it has taken some that long but that’s not the norm. A Rutan design, be it a LongEZ, Varieze or any of Burt’s plans built airplanes can be built in a very similar length of time it takes to build anything else. Since they never were a “kit”, then there certainly never was any “quick-build” kits. The most important part of building is your attitude and dedication of your time. When asked what the most important tool he used to build his Varieze Ken Swain said “A pair of wire cutters, to cut the cord on your TV!”

Let’s not let this myth go on. Plans are available, even for free on the internet. You can still get all the materials from ACS or Wicks. Today, with the help of internet networking the EZ community has become an awesome resource of builder support.

Stick to the plans, don’t get caught up in making things complicated, keep things simple and you’ll be flying before you know it! Like Nike say’s, "Just do it". Get out the sander and get it done so you can FLY. The effort is worth the reward.

Ryszard Zadow


Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience

Ryszard profiling the fuselage of Kersene Dreams.

In just one week fuselage was covered in micro

and finish sanded.

2,154 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page