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RUTAN GRIZZLY 72 – N80RA

Burt Rutan designed the Grizzly, and by August of 1980, personnel of the Rutan Aircraft Factory were building the airplane in a shop, which was closed to the public. The Grizzly was strictly a research project, but Burt was concerned the interesting airplane would be mistaken for a new homebuilt. For this reason, the Grizzly project was kept a secret, while the new sailplane, the Solitaire, basked in the Rutan spotlight.

The Grizzly was a STOL bush plane that was constructed as an all-composite canard, as was expected from a Rutan design, though everything else was “different.” Both the wing and canard were forward swept and had interconnects that doubled as torsional braces and fuel tanks. Fowler flaps were employed on all four flying surfaces, increasing wing area by 45 square feet. When deployed, they were intended to provide excellent STOL characteristics. The Grizzly’s airfoil and wing systems were the first to be developed by a RAF aerodynamic design computer.

Powered by a 180 hp Lycoming IO-360B engine and a Hartzell CS prop, the Grizzly was a four place airplane – or two place with 78 inch long beds in the back for go-anywhere, land-anywhere camping, hunting, fishing, etc.

Mike Melvill made the first flight on January 22, 1982, which went so well he was up for 2.6 hours. Progressing through his test flight schedule card, Mike was able to go as far as to crank out full flaps – something not always possible on the first flight of conventional configurations, let alone the Grizzly.

In June of 1982 Burt worked with the FAA to get the Grizzly signed off as a tow plane so it could be used to tow the new Solitaire for its test flights. Burt checked out as the tow plane pilot and sent the FAA into a bit of a whirl since they had never licensed an experimental plane to tow another experimental plane. The Grizzly towed the Solitaire for many flights, the first of which occurred on June 23, 1982.

After all test flights for the Grizzly and Solitaire were completed, Burt decided to donate his experiment. He donated the Grizzly to the EAA AirVenture Museum in 1997, where it resides in the honored company of other innovative Rutan designs.

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