Over forty years ago, Burt Rutan thrilled the world of homebuilding with a unique and radical aircraft he called the Varieze. With performance numbers and construction methods never before seen in a homebuilt airplane it caused a revolution in homebuilt aircraft popularity. The demand for plans soared upward like the Varieze’s climb rate. In no time people wanted more capability so Burt designed the LongEZ and even more people got into foam and fiberglass airplane building. Over 15,000 sets of plans were sold for the LongEZ with thousands completed and flying. In time the Varieze seemed overshadowed by the
LongEZ’s greater range, useful load and panel space. Many people see the LongEZ as a more comfortable airplane because of the extra elbow room in the wing strakes and though there are many positives in the evolution of the Varieze into the LongEZ, the Varieze is a very under-appreciated airplane.
The Varieze is the “purists” Eze. It’s not only the first homebuilt composite canard introduced to the world of homebuilding, it’s by far the most fun to fly. The LongEZ, with its thicker airfoil and straighter wing lacks the roll rate and spritely-ness of the Varieze. The Varieze is like a little sports car and was designed to satisfy the Rutan brothers desire to have their own little fighter plane. It does it quite well. The LongEZ was designed with stability, efficiency and long range. It has more docile flying characteristics. Compared to the stock plans built O-235 powered LongEZ, the Varieze is a much better performer. Until the O-320 became common place on Long’s the Varieze was considered the faster airplane. Many Varieze’s with upgraded O-200’s still out-run big engined LongEZ’s.
The most glaring difference between the two airplanes is price. Varieze’s today can be bought for less than a Cessna 150. Oddly enough the Cessna 150 uses the same engine, but the Varieze goes almost twice as fast! Since most where built in the early hey-day of Rutan enthusiasm they are reaching the age that they may require a restoration, but they are so simple the investment is more time than money. Project Varieze’s can be had for a few thousand dollars. Though most FBO maintenance shops don’t’ know how to approach Rutan design, there are a few really good shops and individuals around the country that can handle their repairs and restorations. Between that, networking through the community of Canard people and help from organizations like Central States, keeping one flying is Varieze!
Practicality is the real reason to have a Varieze. LongEZ’s carry 50 gallons of gas and even an O-320 powered LongEZ flies over a thousand miles. If that is your mission profile, then a LongEZ is for you. If you fly mostly for fun with an occasional long trip, then the Varieze is your airplane. A LongEZ has a slightly, very slightly, wider cockpit at the front. (It’s actually the same width as a Varieze at the back of the rear seat.) Because it has slightly more real estate in the instrument panel it was easier to make them IFR. Even in the vacuum driven round dial days it was possible to have an IFR Varieze because I had one. These days with glass panels anything can be equipped like an airliner with less cost and weight so the point is mute.
LongEZ’s have expensive engines. The Lycoming O-320’s is the preferred LongEZ engine but the fuel burn is higher and cost of an O-320 is at least 50% greater than the Varieze’s O-200. A stock LongEZ with an O-235 is a very efficient airplane but the tradeoff is they have long take off runs and climb slow. They are even more challenged in hot weather and high density altitudes. I shocked people by taking my Varieze to Telluride, airport elevation 9069 feet! I wouldn’t try that in a stock O-235 LongEZ. Most of the O-235’s in LongEZ’s are getting difficult to find parts for and those parts are expensive. For some models a set of the O-235 piston rings, if they can be found, are $1200. There hasn’t been an O-235 manufactured in decades while the O-200 is back in production and parts are readily available.
Simple always works best in aviation and a Varieze is as simple as a Piper Cub. Keep it light and the performance is like a little rocket. The Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience is about to launch its first Varieze project and it will be a throw-back to the early days of Eze flying. Five round dial instruments and two switches, a C-90-8, no starter, no alternator, manual nose gear. Light and simple, it will be a joy to fly. This airplane won’t be limited on where it can fly either because advances in technology are making panel mounted avionics a thing of the past. About all you need is a handheld radio and an Ipad. An airplane equipped like our RAFE Varieze will be able to fly just about anywhere. In the near future, everything you’ll need to go anywhere you want will be in a tablet in your lap. There’s really no reason to concern your budget with expensive panel mounted radios and an electrical system anymore.
These days Varieze’s are the bargain of the aircraft market. This is flying on a budget like no other airplane can provide for you! Nothing else does 180 mph on 5 gallons an hour, is a blast to fly, easy to share a hangar, low maintenance, pure fun and can be had for less than $20,000 dollars. If you honestly evaluate your flying, do you really need 50 gallons of gas? Do you fly 1000 mile legs all the time? How often do you carry a second person? How much flying do you do for fun by yourself? If you fly long legs in IFR weather, then a very well equipped LongEZ is what you want, but It will cost you.
If you fly for fun, rarely carry another person, spend most your time in and out of uncontrolled airports and don’t routinely fly more than 600 miles a leg then the Varieze is for you. Grab one quick because the secret is out and prices will go up!