Rutan VariViggen

The starting point of Burt Rutan’s revolution in light airplane design. It’s name and shape were inspired by Swedish AF attack plane, SAAB AJ-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt”). Flying characteristics were remarkable—it displayed no conventional stall and could climb, cruise, glide, turn, and land with continuous full back-stick at a stable speed of 52 mph throughout. By 1977, 600 sets of plans had been sold, and 245 aircraft were under construction. Currently on display at the Cincinnati Air Museum.

The Rutan VariViggen is an airplane designed by Burt Rutan. He named it after the Swedish fighter plane, the Saab 37 Viggen, which had partially inspired his design. The aircraft is a two-seat (tandem arrangement), wood and fiberglass canard utilizing a 150 hp Lycoming O-320 piston engine in pusher configuration. The prototype was designated Model 27, and the production version was Model 32.

Original VariViggen Prototype

Our Aircraft at the 2005 Rough River Canard Fly-In
Rutan became interested in aircraft which resisted stalls and spins, and the VariViggen was his first full scale design. He began working with the design as a student at Cal Poly in the early 1960s, and started building the prototype in his garage in 1968. After four years of work, the aircraft made its first flight in April, 1972. The Model 32, also known as the VariViggen SP, utilized a slightly longer fuselage, larger span and winglets in order to increase efficiency. Rutan also began work on an all-aluminum variant, the MiniViggen, but later abandoned the project and focused his efforts on the VariEze.

The Rutan Aircraft Factory sold over 600 plan sets for the VariViggen to homebuilders, and eventually about 20 of the aircraft were built. Fewer than five are currently still flying following the crash of one in New Brunswick, Canada in September 2006. The prototype aircraft, N27VV, was donated to the EAA AirVenture Museum in 1988.

A Rutan VariViggen was used in the 1975 film Death Race 2000.

Rutan Model 27 VariViggen

Named after the Swedish Saab 37 Viggen fighter aircraft which served as a partial design inspiration for Burt Rutan, the VariViggen is a tandem, two-seat wood and fiberglass aircraft for the home builder. The VariViggen was Rutan’s first full-scale design of an aircraft, begun during his years at the California Polytechnic State University. Designed to resists stalls and spins the craft is a delta-wing canard with twin-tails and winglets that is powered by a 150-horsepower Lycoming O-320 piston engine mounted as a pusher configuration in the tail. While the Rutan factory sold over 600 sets of plans only approximately 20 were built and very few remain.

The VariViggen was made of plywood and was easy to build using normal techniques. Spruce was used for spars and longerons, and aircraft plywood for the formers, ribs, and skin. The plywood skin was covered with lightweight Ceconite and finished with dope followed by polyurethane.

SAAB AJ-37 Viggen

Model: Model 27/32 Vari Viggen
Span: 19 ft 0 in (5.79 m)
Length: 16 ft 10 in (5.12m) – 23’8″
Wing Area: 123 sq. ft.
Height: 6 ft.
Empty Weight:
Max Takeoff Weight:
1020 lb (463.6 kg)
1700 lb (772.7 kg)
Armament: None
Engine: Lycoming O-320 150 HP piston engine in pusher configuration
Crew: 2
Cost: $
Tail Number: N212RS
Year Built: 1989
Maximum Speed: 165 mph (265.5 km/h)
Cruising Speed: 150 mph (242 km/h)
Range: 400 mi (645 km)
Stall Speed: 48 mph (77.25 km/h)
Rate of Climb: 1200 ft. per min.
Service Ceiling: 14,000 ft.
Take Off Distance: 850 ft.
Landing Distance: 300 ft.