The largest and most ambitious canard ever designed by Rutan was relegated to the vaults of aviation history... by the Starship!

Customer:  possibly Beechcraft

Type:  twin-engine commuter airliner


Powerplant: unspecified

Significant date: 1981

The Rutan Commuter was a daring concept for a 36-passenger, twin-engine commuter airliner. The unique features of this aircraft (in its Model 78-1 configuration) were the swept-forward aft wing, with flaps and elevators, while the foreplane was also equipped with flaps and elevators. This reflected the Fowler flap development pioneered in the Grizzly design. A center line thrust arrangement was accomodated by the turboprop engines mounted on the fin — one being a pusher, the other a tractor.

The tricycle landing gear main wheels retracted into streamline fairings at the lower fuselage sides while the nosewheel retracted into the aircraft's nose. Wing tip winglets were employed but the rudder was beneath the rear engine. The only conventional feature were the ailerons.

The Commuter was designed to provide safe, quick intercity shuttle service. A scale model of he Model 78-1 was wind tunnel tested at NASA's Langley Research Center. The project was published in the press late in 1981, and a Model 79 was also quoted for the same project, but no information is available on this alternate design. It is suspected that Rutan's work on the Beechcraft Starship I resulted in the Commuter being "put on the back burner."

Population: none built

Wingspan : 70 ft.
Length : 65 ft.
Fuel consumption : 505 lbs./hour
Cruising speed : 300 mph+
Landing speed : 94 mph
Climb : 2110 fpm (on both engines), 770 fpm (on one engine)

Crew/passengers: 36

Main sources:

  • Sport Aviation Vol.30 #10 (Oct 81)
  • Canard, A Revolution In Flight, by Andy Lennon (foreword by Burt Rutan)