One in a handful of failed Rutan projects, the Predator never had the time to prove itself.

Photos of the Predator are pretty rare as it crashed in 1985.

Airfoil designer John Roncz with Predator and its initial canards.

Customer:Advanced Technology Aircraft Co., Ltd. (ATAC)

Type:  experimental canard-wing crop duster

Program:  Predator 480 agplane (proprietary)

Powerplant: 1 x 400hp Avco Lycoming IO-720-C1BD

Significant date: 1984

One of the lesser-known Rutan projects was the Predator 480 agplane, an unconventional single-engine high performance crop-duster canard aircraft designed by Burt Rutan after Advanced Technology Aircraft Co., Ltd. (or ATAC), contracted with Scaled Composites to design and build a proof-of-concept crop-duster. Although the chosen Predator layout developed as the Model 120 Predator was a canard type, it started life with a much-different joined-wing configuration as the Model 58/59 Predator design study. The Model 58/59 configuration was then dropped in favor of the more conventional Model 120-9E design. The only prototype built first flew in 1984. Two different types or airfoil were used on the canards after the first set showed poor performance.

This didn't prevent the Predator from crashing in Welsh, Louisiana, on Aug 21, 1985, after only 175 flight hours. The aircraft impacted the terrain in an uncontrolled descent, during the initial takeoff climb. The pilot reported that after takeoff at an altitude of approximately 20 ft. above ground level, the aircraft rolled 20 to 25 degrees to the right. After correcting for the roll, the pilot stated, the aircraft settled to ground impact. Witnesses reported the grass airstrip used for takeoff contained seven- to eight-inch high grass and it was wet from a two-inch rainfall on the previous day. A slight quartering tailwind was also reported to have been present at the time. The pilot was only slightly injured and the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that airspeed had been inadequate to maintain liftoff.

Perhaps not completely wrecked, the airframe seems to have since remained in storage as it still appears on civil registers as the property of ATAC, sole owner of the design. The Predator 480 eventually never made it into production after a severe design flaw was found in the main wing.

Population: 1 [N480AG] (c/n X-1)

Wingspan: 57' 0"
Gross weight: 7,580 lb.

Crew/passengers: 1

Main sources:

  • The Canard Pusher

Though the fuselage was rather typical of agplanes, the wings and canards of the Predator were 'something different'.

A beautiful r/c model of the Predator.