With such a radical and iconoclastic design, Burt Rutan's design made an instant sensation in the aircraft world...

The Vari-Viggen protoype with Burt Rutan at the controls.

Des Whitfield's ZK-FQN (cn AACA~254) was New Zealand's first and only Vari-Viggen. First registered on Feb. 24, 1988, it first flew at Rotorua quite some time later, on May 3, 1994 but crashed soon after. It was then rebuilt but crashed again in 1999, killing its builder in the process.

VariViggens were few and they are becoming increasingly rare.


The Model 32 Vari-Viggen SP in both photo and CGI form.

Status: two-seat delta wing canard pusher kitplane



Powerplant: 1 x 110kW Lycoming O-320

First flight: June 1972

The revolutionary Model 27 Vari-Viggen (whose name and concept were inspired by the famous Swedish Viggen fighter) was Burt Rutan's very first design under his own name. It was a two-seat delta wing canard with a pusher propeller which he began to design while he was still a student at Cal Poly in 1963. The construction of the Vari-Viggen in the garage of his Lancaster, CA home required nearly four years, having begun in 1968 after extensive wind tunnel tests and model experiments dating back to 1963. Burt performed model experiments by suspending a true, one fifth scale model on a specially built test rig attached to the luggage rack on top of his station wagon. The rig allowed measurement of air speed, angle of attack, lift, drag, sideslip, side force, roll moment, elevator-aileron-rudder positions, and an extra data channel which permitted measurement of hinge moment or structural load.

In designing the prototype, Burt decided against going for optimum high speed. Instead, he wanted plenty of wing area for safe, docile, low speed flying qualities. Burt settled for a slab-sided fuselage and flat-bottomed wings for ease of jigging and building. The main structure was made of plywood and was easy to build using normal techniques. Spruce was used for spars and longerons, and aircraft plywood for the formers, ribs, and skin. The plywood skin was covered with lightweight Ceconite and finished with dope followed by polyurethane. The prototype had a roomy cockpit for two pilots in tandem which incorporated modern fighter-cockpit layout and afforded really terrific visibility from both seats. The fully retractable landing gear was operated electrically as were the trim bungee and the wing reflex. The Vari-Viggenwas powered by a 150 hp four cylinder Lycoming engine.

Burt began testing his Vari-Viggen in April of 1972 and spent nine weeks test flying the prototype, improving the engine operation, gathering stability and performance data, and adding a new cowling and spinner. By the time the Vari-Viggen landed at the convention in Oshkosh in 1972 the prototype had logged 75 hours. Burt used the Vari-Viggen as his personal airplane, logging over 150 hours in the prototype. He flew the airplane on a five day vacation to the west coast, a trip that totaled about 3,000 miles with stops at 16 airports. The Vari-Viggen also had a rather eventful trip to Idaho which required an emergency landing in an Idaho field shortly after takeoff due to Burt’s unfamiliarity of flying in cold weather conditions.

Burt finally decided to move on to other designs. He donated the prototype Vari-Viggen to the EAA AirVenture Museum in 1988 and the airplane is now part of the diverse collection of Rutan aircraft in the museum. Further development of these ideas led to the unbuilt Mini-Viggen, a projected aluminum version of the VariViggen which was abandoned as too costly to produce and which only made it to wind-tunnel stage. However, this was evolved into the Varieze in 1974-76, a most popular Rutan design.

The Model 32 Vari-Viggen SP was rather similar to the Model 27. Offered on the market in 1973, this variant featured added higher aspect ratio composite wings, an increased wingspan. Winglets were also added.

A jet-powered version was also developed as the MicroStar by Léo Chagnes in France.

Population: 1 prototype [N27VV]
                   about 35 kitplanes (both Models 27 and 32 versions)

Max speed: 241kph
Range: 645km

Crew/passengers: 1 crew, 1 passenger

Main sources:
- EAA's AirVenture Museum

Only a handful of Model 27 planes were fitted with winglets.

The Model 32 had increased wingspan and winglets.

A most original livery for a homebuilt! (photo: Don Hewins)