The Rutan Boomerang

This is a regular blog post that updates listeners and viewers on events in the Airspeed world. Airspeed is an audio and video Internet media source that brings the best in aviation and aerospace to media devices and desktops everywhere. If you’re looking for the audio and video content, please check the other entries on the site. It’s all here! In the meantime, enjoy this update about what’s going on in Airspeed’s world.

California-based CFI Ron Klutts is an occasional contributor to Airspeed. He captured this story at AirVenture Oshkosh 2011.

I was admiring the Rutan Boomerang in the Wednesday of Airventure Oshkosh when I spotted two guys who appeared to be working on it. Intrigued, I approached and introduced myself and that’s when I met Tres Clements. He is a manufacturing engineer with Scaled Composites. He lead a team of volunteers who worked over several months to get the Boomerang ready for a tribute to Burt Rutan at Oshkosh.

Unique Design Features

The asymmetric features of the Boomerang are apparent in this view but, as Tres describes the flying qualities, it’s more symmetric than it looks. He discovered during the renovation why certain design choices were made and how they solved aerodynamic problems in an unexpected way. With the CG actually between the two engine pods, use of rudder is mostly not required at high angles of attack. The design cancels out much asymmetry during this phase of flight.

Tres recounted how that was one of the benefits in working on this project in getting to know and sit next to Mike Melvill in Burt’s personal airplane. While waiting for the air show to end, I had the opportunity to hear Mike recount many stories of flying to airshows in his own Long-EZ and later perform aerobatics in the show and his take on the other performers and safety was always on his mind. The wealth of experience he has gained and was willing to share with others was apparent.

Each engine of the Boomerang has a vertical stabilizer behind it so the propwash adds to the directional control. Adding to the asymmetric look is the lack of a horizontal stabilizer on the right side of the engine boom. Why add weight and more control surfaces if Burt says it’s not needed?

Rebuilding the Panel

Tres estimates that the team spent more than 1,500 hours going through the systems to get the Bomerang airworthy again. That included the panel.

Burt used an Apple Macbook as the engine monitoring and data collection system. While the panel still worked when Tres and the team powered it up, the panel needed updating.

Ryan Malherbe from General Atomics helped to make and wire the panel. The center is dominated by a Garmin stack consisting of a GMA 350 Audio Panel, a GTN 750 touch screen WAAS GPS NAV/Comm, and a GTX 327. On the left is an iPad 2 running ForeFlight Mobile HD, supplying VFR/IFR charts and all the airport info and taxiway diagrams needed to keep a pilot informed. An AuRACLE 2120 with dual screens at the bottom of the panel monitors engine parameters.

With room for five and a pressurized cabin maintaining a 7,000 MSL cabin pressure at FL 200, the Boomerang can travel 1,500 miles with full fuel while carrying a payload of 865 pounds, this is a serious go places airplane.

Pictured here are Ryan Malherbe on the left with Tres Clements on the right.

Tres says that Burt didn’t want the airplane just sitting in a museum on static display where it might convey the idea that it didn’t fly or was unsafe. He felt the best way to get the message out was for the airplane to fly and demonstrate it’s capabilities by doing what it does best. To fly and be seen.

So Tres is doing appearances and presentations. He’ll be at San Luis Obispo (KSBP) for the EAA Chapter 170 meeting at Hangar 49 at 11:30 on Saturday 20 August. Tres will discuss restoring and flying the Boomerang and then the chapter will host an after-meeting barbecue.

Photo credits (in order of appearance):

Brandon Inks

Tres Clements

Ron Klutts

Airspeed Guest Essay: Ron Klutts Remembers Doug Bourn and Talks Safety

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. It’s all free!

These are the show notes to an audio episode. If you want to listen online, please use the direct link below.

For Ron Klutts, a long-time friend of Airspeed, the 17 February crash of a Cessna 310 near Palo Alto hit close to home. Ron knew the pilot well and the accident caused Ron to compose some of his thoughts into a really well-crafted essay.

As you know, I usually fly left seat in Airspeed episodes. But this is one instance where I’m happy to move over, sit back, tune radios, and get coffee for the pilot flying. Please give your full attention to this first-ever Airspeed guest essay. It’s worth your time and attention.

Take-offs are a surprise.

There are times in our lives where we pause to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, or what we hope to do in the future and how to achieve them. Other times it’s our failures that trigger this and we want to learn from it and try and avoid repeating them. Sometimes we get to learn from the events other people have gone through and reflect on it.

What follows is my journey of self-examination as a pilot.

First off I must thank Stephen Force for the inspiration I received from his First Solo episode and hearing of his journey with a bag of fears and the roadblocks he faced when his instructor died in a terrible crash.

It was in that episode that we as pilots are reminded aviation is safe but to a large extent it’s terribly unforgiving when an accident does happen. We want it to be safe for us, our loved ones and other passengers that entrust their lives and well being to us. It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.

We strive to learn the performance characteristics and limitations of the aircraft we fly and then operate it safely within those boundaries.

We learn and practice emergency procedures so we can handle them and have a safe outcome for us and then lastly the plane.

From our early training onward we know the importance of protecting lives on the ground and the need to stay away from populated areas if we must land during an emergency.

I want to address a few things that have come to mind in the past weeks in light of a recent accident that struck all to close to home for me.

On February 17, 2010 a Cessna 310 left Palo Alto with three on board for an hour and fifty minute flight to southern CA. This time however, the flight lasted less than a minute.

The pilot was one of the good guys, a commercial rated CFI with whom I did my BFR with in 2005 when I joined the partnership he started with 4 other people for a Cessna 172.

I flew with him several times doing various training flights and have shared dinner and margaritas with all the members of our group to discuss plane issues, life, best routes to fly and places to go eat.

He was a successful and talented Electrical Engineer and someone who just loved aviation. His passion for teaching was clear as he enjoyed teaching others to fly to the extent it was hard to get him to accept anything more than a token payment for his time. He didn’t do it for the money, but because it was FLYING! And he loved it.

I’ll leave it to the NTSB to make the determination of probable cause, my intent is to learn from that fact this accident did happen and in light of the WX conditions are there things that I would do to keep me safe in similar circumstances?

To that extent, I say that take-offs are a surprise. Why? It’s been said that while take-offs are optional, landings are clearly NOT.

How can it be said that take-offs are a surprise? Didn’t we go to the airport with the intent and desire to take-off and go somewhere?

This concept comes from my training for the commercial rating. I learned many new habits that I’ll admit I should have been incorporating all along. Whether it was due to several years of not flying and having earned the private license a few decades previous, it was a good thing to learn these new safety related habits.

I’ll admit that learning to do passenger pre-start safety briefings and departure briefings felt awkward, as well as talking to myself in doing various callouts during the take-off roll. However I stuck with it and I knew that in the interest of safety, these were things a competent pilot needed to do. I was learning a new mindset and for that I was thankful.

Part of that departure briefing included what we expect to happen, and what to do in the event something didn’t go as planned. This is where the surprise comes in.

My CFI, Jason Miller, told me that I should plan on aborting EVERY take-off and be surprised if the engine keeps running and we can accelerate to rotation speed and can fly away.

Even after that point we should be ready to react in case it fails on climb-out and we need to do something. Whether it’s landing straight ahead or making a slight turn to avoid obstacles, we need to be ready until the first 1000’ is under us and we have an extra moment to evaluate our situation.

A lot of the scenarios we practice involve emergencies at higher altitudes or in cruise flight. The failure we train for most on takeoff is an engine failure and then to a lesser degree instrumentation or loss of radio communication. At cruise altitude we have the luxury of a little time to diagnose, trouble shoot and develop a plan of action.

I remember a flight my buddy took years ago as a newly minted pilot. Returning from LA to Northern CA he faced higher than expected headwinds. He started getting nervous as the rental had fuel gauges that made it hard to accurately tell the quantity. This was a late night flight and would require a $20 fee to call someone from home to get fuel as this was before the 24 hour self serve pump era. He at least had time and altitude to consider his options. He now knows landing and paying the fee was cheap insurance and peace of mind even though he arrived safely but had cut his fuel reserve close.

I too have my own fuel story, but I used it as a learning experience to shape my practices today so that my reserves are higher and I’ll make the extra stop even if not really needed.

Sometimes the lessons we learn come from close calls, and in other cases from fatal accidents. Set some personal minimums and then STICK to them.

Part of our preparedness is to plan for the time when things do go wrong.

What are the action items for an electrical system failure?

What if the vacuum system failed?

What if an engine failed?

What if my engine fails at 200’? At 500’? At 1000’?

What if any of these occur in IMC?

Each altitude has different action plans and alternatives. Are we ready for each? Have YOU asked WHAT IF?

What if?….. What if?….

Were you surprised the engine didn’t fail so you could continue the take-off? You need to be surprised. Or did you firewall the throttle, waited a few seconds and pulled back, just EXPECTING all to go well?

I know I am asking WHAT IF now.

Now think of having to do that at 100 to 200 feet in IMC. That is a critical time to have to do this. Whether it’s diagnosing an engine or vacuum system failure affecting the attitude indicator to keep us upright, we need to have a back up plan before we start the take-off and be ready to react.

By doing the departure briefing I was reminding myself what I would do in various circumstances. It helped me to be spring loaded to react.

The same needs to be done for low visibility take-offs. I practiced how to do it during instrument training and to maintain aircraft control during the take-off roll.

These include failures of the vacuum system or an issue with the pitot static system that gives us the all important attitude information to keep the shiny side up.

Can we brush up our basic attitude flying skills? What about practicing partial panel? Could we practice a partial panel take-off to simulate a vacuum failure at rotation under the watchful eyes of a CFII of course. For those of you that are multi-rated, how proficient at single engine operations are you? Are you ready for an engine to fail and have practiced the procedures required?

I use a portable GPS as do many others and appreciate its many abilities including the terrain awareness so I know what’s out there if I’m in IMC or at night. Those mountains have a habit of being dark and unlit at night.

I had never thought of having the simulated panel page of the GPS up and displayed on take-off in case of an instrumentation failure. I love having the GPS for the battery powered backup navigation in case of an electrical failure. But never for a moment did I think it could serve a purpose on take-off. I may never do a take-off with a 100’ ceiling but the idea is the same.

Isn’t this why we got the instrument rating after all? To blast through a low fog layer into clear air a 1000’ above us? We need to remember that getting there carries with it certain risks during the first few minutes of flight that we need to be prepared for to the extent we possibly can.

On a recent flight I did put the GPS into the simulated panel page and thought of actually using it after rotation in IMC.

Would it have made a difference in the chaos of either an engine failure or dizziness caused from spatial disorientation from entering IMC so quickly after rotation?

It may not have, so make no mistake about it, I’m in no way implying I have found the cause or solution to this terrible accident, as the details and causes are unknown. It just got me thinking to look at my own safety practices and ask,


It’s been a few weeks since the accident that took our friend and colleague.

I’m having trouble coming to terms with this one. This was a seasoned and skilled pilot. It’s not my intent to analyze this accident and say what went wrong. My desire was to learn from this and see what I can do different to make me safer.

This means keeping my skills sharp and using anything at my disposal to stay upright as best I can.

If I’m ever not surprised, I’d like to think I thought of and practiced the right WHAT IF for that situation. That’s what we do as safe pilots.

So I put this question to you, are YOU thinking WHAT IF?

Will I be surprised at my next take-off? I hope so.
I WANT to be surprised on my next take-off, and a million more after that……..

I’d like to thank all the CFI’s I have learned from over the years.

Todd Bennett, Doug Groom, Dan Adams, Ewe Lemke, Steve Philipson, Jason Miller, and especially Doug Bourn.

Forget the Dr. title, I want CFI after my name. It’s coming, I can feel it.

All of you set a high standard I too aspire to attain and will teach ALL of my students to think of



More information about Doug Bourn is available at

You can e-mail Ron Klutts at, connect with him on myTransponder as CaptainRon, or or follow him on Twitter as @Captain_Ron.

A Mooney, Some Camping Gear, a Pillow, and a Shopping Bag Full of Charts – Going Places with Ron Klutts

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher, listen to audio at, or download directly at

Ron Klutts and I have carried on a correspondence for more than a year and we finally met in person at AirVenture Oshkosh this summer. Ron and a friend had flown all the way from Palo Alto and had made a two-week ossyssey out of the OSH trip.

So when I thought about doing a show on going places (far-away places) Ron naturally came to mind. In this episode, we talk about long-distance GA flying. How to plan, what to take, how to pack, and other lessons learned from two nearly trans-continental trips.

Also check out Ron’s appearance on The Pilot’s Flight PodLog – Episode 9.

A Word from Our Sponsor . . .

I want all of the sprinters to listen up.

Sprinters you say?

It’s approaching winter here in the northern hemisphere. For a lot of us, that means that snow on the ground and icing in the skies will soon be a daily fact of life. If you’re on the edge of getting that elusive certificate or rating and trying to make the decision about whether to do a sprint to get it done before winter comes in earnest or wait until spring, here’s your wake-up call to put on those spikes and get your toes set in those blocks.

You say you’re nailing your slow flight or your eights on pylons or your precision approaches and you’re ready to fly the examiner, but you haven’t done the knowledge test yet? Well don’t let the knowledge test stop you from getting that certificate or rating this fall!

Gleim knowledge transfer systems can help you learn the information you need to know quickly and efficiently. Gleim uses actual FAA knowledge test questions so you’re prepared for the subject matter, form, and style of the questions and can walk into the exam with confidence.

I’m not saying that Gleim will do the work or that you won’t have to apply yourself. Nothing worth doing is easy. But if you’re ready to put in the work and want materials that will make efficient use of your time and make your study efforts pay off, Gleim knowledge transfer materials are your best friends.

I have a more-than-full-time job as a lawyer and I write and lecture frequently on top of that. I also have two small children and a wife who works full time so I have plenty to do around the house. When I drove a stake into the ground and said that this would be the year for the instrument rating, one of the first things I did was go get fresh Gleim study preparation software and the Gleim audio for the instrument rating. I used the software in the early mornings and at lunch to go through study sessions that helped me to nail the exam questions. I carried around the print version of the Gleim knowledge transfer outline so that I could study during spare moments and so that I’d have the full-color figures of the IFR en route charts and other provided materials for the knowledge test. And I listened to the Gleim audio while I pulled the kids around the neighborhood in the wagon.

I worked hard at it and the Gleim materials made every spare minute count.
So if you’re thinking about making a sprint to finish that certificate or rating before the snow flies, don’t put it off because of the knowledge test. Get Gleim knowledge transfer materials and then make every minute count with concise outlines, real FAA test questions, and audio that turns drive time (or walking time) into study time.

Gleim has knowledge transfer systems for Sport Pilot, Private Pilot, Instrument Pilot, Commercial Pilot, Flight/Ground Instructor, Airline Transport Pilot, Multi-Engine, and Flight Engineer and even specialty materials like refresher courses great for use before your BFR or Instrument Proficiency Check. No matter how you learn best, Gleim packages the information in a way that’s right for you. From online courses like Gleim’s Online Ground School to test-prep CD-ROMs to books and audio programs, Gleim has a system that’s right for your learning style.
Drive your own stake into the ground, commit to that sprint, and get that certificate or rating. Then, when things get green again, you’ll be ready for that next great adventure instead of staring that same old barrier in the face.
Gleim has knowledge transfer systems for Sport Pilot, Private Pilot, Instrument Pilot, Commercial Pilot, Flight/Ground Instructor, Airline Transport Pilot, and Flight Engineer.

And, for a limited time, by special arrangement with Airspeed, Gleim will give Airspeed listeners 25% off their purchases of Gleim pilot kits. That’s right. Just give the promotional code “ASPD” at the time of your order and Gleim will knock 25% off your Gleim pilot kit just for being an Airspeed listener.

You can reach Gleim at or call them up on the phone at (800) 874-5346 and remember to use the promotional code “ASPD” to get your 25% Airspeed listener discount for a limited time only.