Status:company-owned prototype / homebuilt
Type: prototype and homebuilt canard aircraft
Powerplant: 1 x 108 hp Lycoming O-235
First flight: June 1979
The Model 61 Long-EZ was a larger version of the original Rutan designed VariEze canard pusher. The engine was at the rear pushing, and the pitch control (or elevator), called the canard, is on the front wing. The aircraft was plan-built using the Rutan composite method. This consisted in carving the shape of the aircraft parts in foam and then fibreglass on the outside. Many parts are still available for the design. The standard design had a retracting nosewheel and fixed main gear. At rest, the nosewheel was retracted and the nose was lowered to the ground. This prevented tipping due to the rear centre of gravity. The Long-EZ was a very well tested, fast and economical aircraft, and a dream to fly once you got used to it. Its biggest asset wass probably its remarkable flying characteristics and inability to stall; its main drawback was the limited baggage space it offers. With its greater wing area, range and payload, more powerful engine and larger interior, it represented Rutan’s next generation canard design.
Some early problems were experienced with the Long-EZ design when the canard could stall when wet. This problem was cured by fitting vortex generators. The Long-EZ has undoubtedly been Rutan's biggest hit with homebuilders, being the design he sold plans for in the biggest numbers and the one that has spawned the most versions. Rutan himself stopped his involvement in the Long-EZ and his other homebuild designs in the mid-1980s when he closed down Rutan Aircraft Factory afte deciding to no longer sell the plans for fear of law suits. This has not prevented the Long-EZ to be very popular, and even Rutan continued providing informal support for a while.
Two Long-EZs (including Dick Rutan's custom-built Long-EZ-B) were even flown around the world by Dick Rutan and Mike Melvill for the Spirit of EAA Friendship World Tour. The Long-EZs has spawned many individual variants and several very popular kitplane versions such as the Cozy, Velocity, Berkut or E-Racer series. None of these homebuilds is ever quite the same as the others, and some may feature different engines, different horsepower, enlarged cabins for more payload or passengers, two or three bladed propellers, side-tilting or upward-tilting cockpits, fixed or retractable gear. There has even been a twin pusher version called the Twin-EZ (also known as the 'Mini-Starship') and a ducted fan version called the Duckt.
The Long-EZ has also been evolved into several military UAV (unmanned) and OPV (optionally piloted) versions such as the Aeromet AURA, the California Microwave CM-30, CM-44 and CM-46, the Army VZ-10, the Aeronautics Defense Systems A-701 Dominator, the Army VZ-11 Velocity, and now the Proxy SkyWatcher and SkyRaider. The Long-EZ's general layout has been reused in the Model 115 Beechcraft Starship demonstrator. Even jet-powered versions such as the Task Vantage, Greg Richter's Cozyjet, V-Jet 900, XCOR's EZ-Rocket and AFFTC/ISSI's Borealis have been or are being successfully flight-tested, and with the upcoming Rocket Racing League, which will be run by Long-EZ and Velocity jet derivatives, the renewed interest for the Long-EZ design will no doubt enable Rutan's superior design to fly well into the 21st century.
Population: 1 prototype [N79RA]; production total unknown (in the hundreds)
Specs and performance (as given in The Canard
Pusher in 1980):