Veteran test pilot and world aviation record holder Dick Rutan has a new ride, with yesterday's first flight of his new Berkut homebuilt. The Berkut is a descendant of the Rutan (as in Brother Burt) Long-EZ, with the prototype being designed in 1989 by Dave Ronneberg and Kerry Beresford of the company Experimental Aviation. The type subsequently suffered through several failed companies, replete with numerous bankruptcies and lawsuits, leading to the current Berkut Engineering Inc.
The corporate background notwithstanding, though, the Berkut has some loyal followers. The Berkut uses retractable landing gear originally designed by Shirl Dickey of the E-Racer fame, and utilizes the Roncz 1145MS canard airfoil, which is more forgiving of dirt and bugs. When equipped with a Lycoming 540, the plane is easily capable of over 300 kts.
For Friday's maiden flight, Dick was chased by long-time friend Mike Melvill (see the June 27, 2008 Mojave Skies entry "The Planes of Mojave: Special EZes, Part I - World Traveler" for the pair's exploits) in his long-range Long-EZ. The successful flight ended just before rain and snow once again blessed the desert.