Rutan Long-EZ

The Rutan Model 61 Long-EZ is a homebuilt aircraft with a canard layout designed by Burt Rutan's Rutan Aircraft Factory. It is derived from the VariEze, which was first offered to homebuilders in 1976. The prototype, N79RA,[3] of the Long-EZ first flew on June 12, 1979.

Long-EZ built by Timothy Crawford and operated by NOAA[1]
Role Homebuilt aircraft
National origin United States of America
Manufacturer Rutan Aircraft Factory
Designer Burt Rutan
First flight June 12, 1979[2]

In 1997, Dick Rutan and Mike Melvill flew two Rutan Long-EZ aircraft that they had built, side-by-side around the world. This "around the world in 80 nights" flight was called The Spirit of EAA Friendship World Tour, and some legs of it lasted for over 14 hours.[4]


The Long-EZ was a clean-sheet scaled-up redesign of the VariEze predecessor, allowing for the use of readily available Lycoming aircraft engines in lieu of the Volkswagen-derived engines or hard-to-find small Continentals for which the VariEze was designed. Changes from the VariEze included a larger main wing with modified Eppler 1230 airfoil and less sweepthe canard uses the same GU25-5(11)8 airfoil as the VariEze—larger strakes containing more fuel and baggage storage, and a slightly wider cabin. Plans were offered from 1980 to 1985. As of late 2005, approximately 700 Long EZ's are FAA registered in the USA.

In January 1985, it was announced that plans for a new canard were being offered, to eliminate "rain trim change" that had been experienced by Long-EZ pilots.[5] This trim change is usually a nose down trim change experienced when flying into rain requiring a small aft force on the stick to maintain altitude, which is easily trimmed out, using the bungee trim system. The new canard was designed with the Roncz R1145MS airfoil, which produces considerably more lift than the original GU25-5(11)8 airfoil. This enabled the new canard to be designed with less span, reducing wetted area and thus drag. The new canard has a negligible rain trim and the rain only adds 2 knots to the stall speed.

The aircraft is designed for fuel-efficient long-range flight, with a range of just over 2,000 miles (3,200 km).[6] It can fly for over ten hours and up to 1,600 miles (2,600 km) on 52 gallons (200 liters) of fuel.[7] Equipped with a rear-seat fuel tank, a Long-EZ has flown for 4,800 miles (7,700 kilometers).[8]

The pilot sits in a semi-reclined seat and controls the Long-EZ by means of a side-stick controller situated on the right-hand console. In addition to having an airbrake on the underside, the twin tail's wing-tip rudders can be deflected outwards to act as auxiliary airbrakes.[7]

In 1996 Burt Rutan awarded TERF Inc. the job of publishing the plans for the Long EZ and other of his aircraft under The Rutan Aircraft Factory CD ROM Encyclopedia for the purpose of further assisting new builders and maintenance for existing builders.[9]


An extensively modified redesign using Long-EZ wings with a fuselage modified for side-by-side seating, retractable landing gear, and larger automotive engine conversion powerplants.[10]
XCOR Aerospace modified a Long-EZ and replaced the engine with twin liquid-fueled rocket engines to form a flight test vehicle called the EZ-rocket, which was used as a proof-of-concept demonstrator. Initially, a follow-on version called the "Mark-1 X-Racer, was going to be developed for the Rocket Racing League,[11] but the Velocity SE was subsequently selected as the airframe for the Rocket Racer, rather than the Long-EZ.[12][13]
Twin EZ
Ivan Shaw built a Long-EZ and then converted it into a "Twin-EZ", an aircraft with twin wing-mounted Norton Wankel engines (precursors to the MidWest AE series).[14] Shaw, a Yorkshireman, later designed the Europa XS kitplane.
Long ESA
A 258 hp electric engine conversion. On 19 July 2012, pilot Chip Yates achieved 202.6 mph in level flight, making the aircraft the fastest man carrying electric powered aircraft.[15][16]
Berkez or Berk-EZ
Heavily modified Long-EZ with Berkut 360 components.[17]


Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83[2]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 Pilot
  • Capacity: 1 Passenger
  • Length: 16 ft 10 in (5.12 m)
  • Wingspan: 26 ft 1 in (7.96 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 10 in (2.40 m)
  • Wing area: 81.99 sq ft (7.617 m2)
  • Empty weight: 710 lb (322 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 1,325 lb (601 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 52 US Gal (197 L)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming O-235 air-cooled flat-four engine, 115 hp (86 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 185 mph (298 km/h, 161 kn) (max cruise)
  • Cruise speed: 144 mph (232 km/h, 125 kn) (40% power)
  • Range: 2,010 mi (3,230 km, 1,750 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 27,000 ft (8,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,750 ft/min (8.9 m/s)

Accidents and incidents

Singer-songwriter and actor John Denver died when his Long-EZ crashed on October 12, 1997. The NTSB believes that he inadvertently pushed on his right rudder pedal while twisting to the left in his seat as he struggled to operate the fuel selector valve, which on his aircraft had been moved by a previous owner to a position where it could more easily be reached from the passenger seat.[18]

Contributing factors in the crash were other pilot errors, a design that led to an overly optimistic pre-flight fuel-check estimate,[19] a known defective (very hard to turn) fuel valve, and non-standard placement of the fuel selector valve by the kit plane's builder, at variance with Burt Rutan's specifications. Denver was aware of the relocated valve prior to take off and had previously flown the aircraft only for approximately thirty minutes in an orientation flight the day before the accident, although he was an experienced pilot. The NTSB cited Denver's unfamiliarity with the aircraft and his failure to have the aircraft refueled as causal factors in the accident.[18] The aerodynamics of this unusual aircraft did not play a role in Denver's crash.

On December 20, 1997, the author James Gleick crash-landed his Long-EZ at Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey.[20] He was seriously injured and the passenger, his 8-year-old son Harry, was killed.[21]

On November 17, 2019, pilot Aldo Nicola died when his Long-EZ tail number LV-X383 grazed a hangar and crashed at the General Rodriguez airport in Argentina. The same pilot and aircraft had been involved in an emergency landing in March 2018. [22].

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. Crescenti, Gennaro. "IN MEMORY OF DR. TIMOTHY L. CRAWFORD, NOAA AIR RESOURCES LABORATORY FIELD RESEARCH DIVISION, IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO" (PDF). Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  2. Taylor 1982, p. 565.
  3. FAA REGISTRY N-Number Inquiry Results
  4. "Dick Rutan The Frontiers of Flight – The Last Great World Record". 10 October 2014.
  5. "Long-EZ Canard Update", The Canard Pusher Vol. 43, January 1985.
  6. W.J. Hennigan (April 1, 2011). "Aerospace legend Burt Rutan ready for a landing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
  7. Rutan Long-EZ Owners Manual, Second Edition - October 1983
  8. "LONG-EZ BREAKS WORLD DISTANCE RECORD". The Canard Pusher (23). January 1980. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  9. "Rutan Aircraft Factory Encyclopedia: Volumes 1, 2 & 3", Terf Inc., 1996.
  10. "E-Racer" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  11. Rocket Racing League website Archived 2007-10-15 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Products Overview Archived 2010-11-25 at the Wayback Machine, XCOR Aerospace, undated, accessed 2010-12-27. "Twin 400 lb-thrust XR-4A3 engines aboard the EZ-Rocket" (with in-flight photograph) ... "Another engine that we have developed in parallel is the XR-4K14, ... a 1,500 lb thrust regeneratively cooled LOX and pump-fed kerosene system ... used as the Rocket Racer aircraft's main engine."
  13. XCOR X-Racer, by Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today, 2009-08-06, accessed 2010-04-26.
  14. STARGAZER - A unique database on Burt Rutan and his projects! Archived 2011-08-10 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Experimenter: 36. September 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. "Flight of the Century". Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  17. Sport Aviation: 95. June 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. Crash investigation (PDF), NTSB, January 26, 1999, retrieved 2012-01-05
  19. Bruce Tognazzini (June 1999), "When Interfaces Kill: What Really Happened to John Denver", AskTog, retrieved 2014-09-21
  20. National Transportation Safety Board Accident Report, NTSB Identification NYC98FA047
  21. David Diamond: "James Gleick's Survival Lessons", Wired, 7.08, August, 1999
  • Taylor, John W. R. (1982), Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83, London: Jane's Yearbooks, ISBN 0-7106-0748-2
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