29 January 2010

Burt Rutan, Portrait of Competence

Born Elbert L. Rutan in 1943 and raised in Dinuba, California, he began building model aircraft as a child. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1965 and landed a job as a flight test engineer at the US military's Edwards Air Force Base, not far from Mojave. "It was unbelievable training for a youngster," he says. Rutan later set up an aircraft design company and in 1982 went on to found Scaled Composites to enable him to realise his own creations, including SS2 _NewScientist

Long before inventing SpaceShipOne and Voyager—the first aircraft to circle the world nonstop and unrefueled—Burt Rutan revolutionized the practice of homebuilding airplanes with a 700-pound, composite oddity built with a set of step-by-step directions as simple as the recipe on a box of cake mix. _AirSpace

Burt Rutan is busy in Mojave, California, building a fleet of spacecraft for Richard Branson. Rutan is a full-spectrum aerospace designer, from single engine hobby planes and jets to round-the-world without refueling experimental craft to spaceplanes for tourists to safely get a taste of black weightless space. But more than that, Rutan is a man who thinks for himself, and goes his own way. His competence has been tested and proven in many ways, and Rutan is a thousand times better as a role model than any politician or film / sports celebrity.
Rutan is a megastar in aerospace circles. Over the last 40 years he has overseen the design and construction of more than 40 novel aircraft, including the record-breaking and ultra-efficient Voyager, which in 1986 flew non-stop around the world on a single tank of fuel.

In October 2004, financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, he secured a place in the history books when one of his aircraft, the waif-like White Knight, carried another of his designs, a rocket plane called SpaceShipOne (SS1), up to 50,000 feet. From there, SS1 was launched to the edge of space, winning Rutan the X Prize, an international contest to build the first privately funded crewed spacecraft to fly to an altitude of at least 100 kilometres and return safely to Earth twice within two weeks. _NewScientist

As an aerospace engineer, Rutan has to understand basic mechanics, aerodynamics and fluidics.  As an inventor, he knows how to generate good ideas and how to recognise bad ideas early enough to prevent serious problems.  As a pilot, he must have a firm grasp of atmospheric mechanisms as well as basic meteorological phenomenon.  As an enrepreneur and businessman, he must be competent at finance and management.  As a competent individual, he things for himself and refuses to stampede with the crowd.

Like most intelligent and independent thinking persons, Rutan is something of a skeptic when it comes to politicised science.  Take the climate catastrophe movement, for example. Rutan has done an intensive investigation of the phenomenon of "climate change" and has a lot of ideas on where things have gone wrong in the climate crusade.
My study is NOT as a climatologist, but from a completely different prospective in which I am an expert. Complex data from disparate sources can be processed and presented in very different ways, and to “prove” many different theories.

For decades, as a professional experimental test engineer, I have analyzed experimental data and watched others massage and present data. I became a cynic; My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product who’s merits are dependant on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”. That is true whether the product is an airplane or a Carbon Credit. _WUWT

In fact, persons from dozens of different backgrounds are trained to be competent at collecting, massaging, and analysing complex data. So when such a person of proven competence points out that data is being mismanaged to promote a political and economic agenda, other competent persons would take notice.

Living in a culture that makes a fetish of in-your-face incompetence -- as long as it is politically correct -- finding truly competent individuals going about their business without seeking the limelight is refreshing.


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Blogger Sojka's Call said...

I was watching some TED conference videos today and happened to see this one with Rutan..... http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/burt_rutan_sees_the_future_of_space.html

Friday, 29 January, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks. I added the video to the posting.

Friday, 29 January, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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