This is probably the best news that the Ground Effect world can get at the moment. A celebrity aircraft designer that has been in the news quite a bit lately and affiliated with high rollers like Virgin’s Richard Branson has leaked information about designing a new aircraft that might just be a Craft that uses Ground Effect.
Burt Rutan holding a model of the Virgin Galactic plane
The news is pretty thin at the moment but we can gather the following information off the EAA website here. It states the following:
In a private chat yesterday (November 9), he confirmed he is working on a new design, Model 372-3. “It is a combination wing ship and seaplane,” Burt revealed about 372-3, inspired by a Soviet “ekranoplan” he learned about while on a trip to Russia nearly two decades ago…
Since Rutan is a member of EAA (member #26033) the likelyhood of the above being close to the truth is very high.
He further mentions on the website that his recent move to a different part of the country has been the trigger to further think about designing a SurfaceCraft. His first real encounter with SurfaceCraft was as part of a DARPA team in 1993 that went to Russia to learn about the wing ships, called “ekranoplans” (surface planes), the Soviet Union built during the Cold War. Rutan now lives in an environment with an abundance of water as opposed to the Mohave Dessert he used to live in before. He mentions that his goal will be to design a STOL seaplane that could operate out of the many lakes and rivers in the region.
The X114. An example of a GE SurfaceCraft that Rutan’s craft could look like.
Since Rutan doesn’t normally reveal any information about his projects until after a prototype has flown, this revelation has been quite extraordinary. Let’s just hope that Mr Rutan will indeed get the time during his retirement to work on this design and kick start the Ground Effect movement again that has been essentially frozen since the collapse of Russia. We need someone with the proper contacts, resources and public profile like his to get it off the ground. Excuse the pun!