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  • Brian McKinney

RAFE Pilot Sponsorship: How you can get involved and FLY!

With the arrival of the Wilhelmson Cozy, the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience has received it’s eighth donated flying aircraft. When the VariViggen flies this spring we will have nine. The Franseen Varieze, N86EZ is now in Houston at the Ellington Canard Base about to begin its refurbishment to flying status. That will be ten and we are regularly communicating with people interested in donating their aircraft.

Five RAFE canards call the Ellington Space Port hangar home.

A question we often get is what does RAFE do with these aircraft? The answer is simple, we comply with our mission statement which is to “Preserve and Promote Rutan homebuilt designs”. How we actually do that is more complex. One of our primary goals is to acquire one flying example of each of the designs Burt sold plans for, and to FLY them. Not just fly them around the pattern but fly them at venues like Airventure, Sun-n-Fun and other airshows and fly-ins. We did just that at Airventure 2019 and hope to do it again and again. It’s hard to believe what RAFE did in 2019 was the first time all of the Rutan homebuilt designs flew together at the same time, at OSH or probably anywhere. To accomplish that in 2019 we depended on owners with models RAFE did not have in its fleet yet. To date we are much closer to reaching our goal. We will have a VariViggen flying soon, hopefully in time to bring it to Airventure this summer. We have a Defiant project and are searching for funding to complete it. The “Holy Grail” is the Solitaire. There are only two known that fly.

To date our fleet consists of:

Flying Aircraft Restoration or Project Aircraft David Brown LongEZ Lady Vi VariViggen Sid Tolchn LongEZ Franseen Varieze Martin Kennedy LongEZ UC-Boulder Cloutier Cozy Jim Madsen LongEZ Defiant project Gyro-Flug Speed Canard Lance Hooley LongEZ project Steve Wright Varieze Tom Wright LongEZ Project Chris Esselstyn/Ken Cameron Cozy III 2 Quikie projects Jack Wilhelmson Cozy III Prozy Technologies Velocity 173.

Accumulating all these aircraft has made RAFE the worlds largest fleet operator of Rutan designs and/or their derivatives.

That sounds like fun and it is, but airplanes are needy. They all need to be hangared, fed avgas and oil, maintained and most importantly, flown! Who gets to fly these aircraft are an elite group called RAFE Sponsors. There are several levels of Sponsorship in RAFE, which are described in the RAFE 60-1 Operations manual and the RAFE 6 Pilot Sponsor manual. An additional form of sponsorship that allows an owner of a Rutan design to participate with their own aircraft is the RAFE Aircraft Owner Sponsor. All these documents are available on our website.

The highest level is the RAFE Pilot Sponsor. This elite group of Pilots are truly the caretakers of RAFE aircraft. They make sure the aircraft they sponsor are properly cared for, hangared, maintained and operated. Pilot Sponsors are the source for the financial support for the aircraft they sponsor. Hangar rent, parts, maintenance and operating expenses are all paid for by the Pilot Sponsors. The benefit of being a Pilot Sponsor is they get to fly the aircraft in not much a way different than if they owned it, the difference is everything

they do is in support of the RAFE mission and for an IRS approved 501c3.

Sponsor Pilot Tim Dyer completes

his RAFE LongEZ checkout.

To date, RAFE has more aircraft than Pilot Sponsors. That trend will probably continue as we take Pilot Sponsorship very seriously. RAFE is not a flying club, we are a non-profit with a mission. That mission is to make sure Rutan designs stay visible before the public to ensure the world knows about them, that pilots know they are great airplanes, to encourage Jeff Goodrich, Sponsor of the RAFE Kennedy LongEZ

potential new builders and that the future generations get educated about the Rutan legacy.

Pilot Sponsors are required to attend events to support the mission. Oshkosh, Sun-n-Fun, Rough River and other fly-ins and airshows. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it! If you feel your up to the task contact RAFE and apply to be an RAFE Pilot Sponsor.

Brian McKinney

Vice President, RAFE

Owner, Varieze, LongEZ and Cozy

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