Flashback: Rutan’s Triumph and copter killer seen up close

 - November 2, 2022, 8:57 AM
AIN January 1, 1990 p.82

With AIN Media Group's Aviation International News and its predecessor Aviation Convention News celebrating the company's 50th year of continuous publication this year, AIN’s editorial staff is going back through the archives each month to bring readers some interesting events that were covered over the past half-century.

REWIND: (AIN January 1, 1990 p.82) Recently, events conspired at Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan’s super-secret skunkworks in the Mojave Desert, to have a handful of diverse projects arrive at important plateaus in their respective development all at the same time. Rutan took the opportunity to declassify the endeavors and for the first time in Scaled’s existence as a civil development center, open his doors to the aviation press. Two of the four projects, the Triumph business jet and a light attack and ground support fighter are totally self-funded, speculative ventures.

When Aviation International News accepted Rutan’s invitation to visit Scaled Composites in November, the Triumph prototype had recently flown for the first time with a fully pressurized cabin.

FAST FORWARD: While Honda Aircraft’s HondaJet is the only business jet on the market with over-the-wing mounted engines, it wasn’t the first. Burt Rutan’s Triumph design presaged it by more than a decade, but while Honda is experiencing solid success with its design having delivered more than 220 of them since 2015, the Triumph, the first private jet to be powered by the Williams FJ-44 engine, withered on the vine. The canard-configured aircraft was originally designed to be a Beechcraft product, a sort of one-size-fits-all design centered around the same airframe, with the other two versions driven by piston and turboprop engines. Despite the largely composite-materials aircraft meeting its performance expectations and showing better fuel economy over similar-sized aircraft, Beech at the time was not in a financial state to pursue production, and Rutan was unable to secure a deal with another partner. The jet exists today as a display in the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, Calif.