RAFE 2022 Annual Report and What's Ahead!
Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience has come a long way since its idea was born in 2015. Now entering our eighth year our fleet and accomplishments are more than I ever imagined.
Aircraft donations grow the fleet.
Two more flying and one formerly flying aircraft were donated to our fleet in 2022.
Just in time for Sun-n-Fun was the Jack Whilhelmson Cozy III. As a supplier of many metal parts for the Rutan home built airplanes, including the electric nose lift so popular these days, Jack and his Cozy have a long history in the canard world.
While at the same time discussions were going on with Paul Adrien about his desire to donate his LongEZ, it was Jacks Donation that facilitated making that possible since Paul was in Leesburg Fla, a quick hop from Sun-n-Fun for a visit and a handshake that RAFE would be the best future for Paul’s LongEZ.
As the year drew to a close Bob Abresch’s Varieze was donated. Longtime Varieze builder and Pilot, Bob brought it home a few years ago to refurbish it, then, at 97 sadly Bob passed. His son desired that his Dads legacy continue and RAFE volunteers drove to Austin and brought Bobs Varieze back to the Ellington RAFE Canard Base where it is now undergoing refurbishment to flying status along with the Franseen Varieze. We hope both fly this year.
The big accomplishment for RAFE in 2022 was obviously getting Lady Vi to Oshkosh in time for the 50th anniversary of the VariViggen. The outpouring of support for that endeavor was humbling. It would not have happened without the true nature of people’s generosity and time. That is the grass roots foundation of a non-profit volunteer organization such as RAFE.
The State of RAFE
The RAFE fleet now comprises 10 flying aircraft with a mix of a Varieze, a Speed Canard, 2 Cozy III’s, 5 LongEZ’s and a VariViggen. We are half way there to our goal of having at least one flying example of each of Burt’s homebuilt designs. We have a Defiant project but lack the funding to finish it. We have a several formerly flying Quickie’s we hope to use to get at least one flying, The Solitaire though remains our “holy grail” as only one remains flying that we know of.
Financially RAFE is holding on. As a 501c3 our books are open to the public. We have about $15K in the bank and about $20K in a portfolio that a benevolent person donated a few years ago. Our goal with those equities is allow them to grow and add to them when we can so that can become the foundation of a trust to keep RAFE financially afloat. Unfortunately we have no real income streams, no big corporate sponsor. All our income comes from donations, t-shirt sales and our canard transition training school, the Canard Flight Academy. The Speed Canard unfortunately is suffering the effects of being a training aircraft and currently in need of repairs and upgrades. Robert Harris and the canard experts at his JetGuys shop are diligently doing that work but it is exhausting funds rapidly. RAFE could really use some help in that department. We’d like to remove the heavy, archaic round dial panel and Terra radios and replace it with a Dynon EFIS and a couple small light modern radios. Performance can be increased by removing the heavy muffler system installed to comply with EU noise standards. A nice four pipe LongEZ exhaust would fit well. The nose gear retract system is nothing like what we have in our Ez’s and very difficult to maintain. A new nose wheel fork and a EZNose Lift would be a huge improvement. RAFE is attempting to acquire the Type certificate for the Speed Canard as it’s an “orphaned” aircraft” with no manufacturer support. That effort has been bogged down in the bureaucracy of dealing with European entities. Thankfully the FAA has Advisory Circulars for aircraft no longer supported that give us guidance towards making the needed repairs and upgrades. The Canard Flight Academy has proven to be a rare commodity in promoting canard flight safety with over a hundred graduates and a waiting list that keeps growing.
The best way for RAFE to accomplish its mission statement of preserving and promoting Rutan homebuilt designs is to keep them flying before the public and keep inspiring! The demand is there and we aim to fill it. In order to do that though we need more people. This is no longer the small non-profit with lofty goals. RAFE is a real thing and I believe will last the test of time. Everyone has a skill set we can use so please get involved. The future is awesome if we can work together.
Another 50th anniversary is coming..
Lady Vi did great things for RAFE. We are riding a wave of visibility from major publication articles, KitPlanes, an article in this months Sport Aviation and a cover shot plus lots of great videos. Finishing Lady Vi in time for the 50th anniversary of the VariViggen validated RAFE's volunteer, non-profit business model and proved we can accomplish great things. A huge challenge looms in the future. 2025 is the 50th anniversary of the Varieze. RAFE has already started discussions with EAA about making 2025 the “Greatest Rutan Celebration, EVER!” My goal as President of RAFE is to see us flying again in front of the crowd at AirVenture and seeing everyone bring their Rutan designs to OSH starting this year and building to 2025. If you have a flying EZ, bring it! If you are building one, finish it! I admit the 50th anniversary of the VariViggen caught us by surprise but we did it. We’re not waiting to start planning the next Rutan party. The countdown to 2025 starts NOW!