At their Dec. 7, 2021, meeting, the board of directors voted to include the Rutan name at Mojave Air and Space Port. The vote was 4-0, with one director abstaining from the vote.
The effort to recognize the Rutan Brothers isn’t new and was first initiated by Cory Bird in late 2018, then vice president of Scaled Composites. Bird presently serves as president of Scaled Composites at Mojave.
The Rutan name is synonymous with Mojave, and many attended the board meeting two years ago on Jan 15, 2019, to lend their support.
Then, General Manager/CEO Karina Drees, announced that there was a request for a discussion item to be brought to the attention of the MASP board. She stated that she had been approached by a couple of people, Cory Bird, VP and a 28-year veteran of Scaled Composites, and other members of the airport community for adding the name ‘Rutan Field’ to the Mojave Air and Space Port name.
One person at the meeting pointed out that Burt Rutan came to Mojave looking for a location he could afford for his innovative Rutan Aircraft Company, known to homebuilders as RAF in 1974.
The airport manager at the time was Dan Sabovich and he leased Rutan a building, to design, build and test his new flying machines.
Two of Rutan’s first employees were Mike and Sally Melvill who decades ago bought a set of Rutan’s Vari-Viggen plans out of the back of his trunk at the Oshkosh air show for $51, built the plane, flew it to Mojave from Indiana and both were hired that day. The Melvill’s worked for Rutan for 29 years before retiring in 2007.
Sally Melvill said, “I don’t think anybody needs convincing that Burt’s name needs to be here. Literally, the name ‘space port’ would not be there if it was not for Burt. The recognition is what’s needed.”
Zach Reeder, former Flight Test Pilot and Project Engineer at Scaled Composites StratoLaunch said, “The benefit of changing the name is to remind ourselves what we’re doing here, especially as the airport has grown. Having a stake in the ground to try to remember some roots while some of the people who were here at the beginning are still around to remind us.”
The Rutan Aircraft Factory began business at Mojave Airport in 1974, developing the VariEze aircraft. Later Burt Rutan design’s made first flights at Mojave Airport, including the Quickie, Defiant and Long-EZ prototypes and the one and only Voyager aircraft, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, Voyager made the epic flight around the world in 9 days, 3 minutes, 44 seconds, beginning on Dec. 14, 1986, and ending on Dec. 23.
Burt Rutan established Scaled Composites in 1982 and is now best known for the first privately funded manned space flight, with Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie, winning the Ansari $10-million X-Prize on Oct. 4, 2004, with Paul G. Allen’s SpaceShipOne.
Rutan’s latest project at Mojave Air and Space Port is StratoLaunch, again first funded by Paul G. Allen.
At the meeting in 2019, the Board of Directors took no action. At the Dec. 7, 2021, meeting, a resolution was read to add the Rutan name, a vote was taken and it was passed, however, they changed wording of the resolution to state their decision would “incorporate the name Rutan into the Mojave Air and Space Port title.
The MASP board will decide on the final wording at a later date.