Scaled Composites Catbird

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Rutan Model 81 Catbird
Catbird reflight.jpg
Second first flight July 7, 2011
National origin United States of America
Manufacturer Rutan Aircraft Factory
Designer Burt Rutan
First flight March 14, 1988
Status Restored in 2011
Number built 1

The [Rutan] Model 81 Catbird is a high-efficiency five-seat single-engine all-composite general aviation aircraft designed by Burt Rutan. It is unusual in that it incorporates both a small forward wing and a small conventional horizontal stabilizer on the tail.

The Catbird was designed by Burt Rutan while his company, Scaled Composites, was owned by Beechcraft. The design was intended to replace the long-produced Bonanza.[1] The financial situation of Beech at the time, and competing projects, prevented consideration of commercial production. In 1988 Beechcraft sold Scaled Composites to the partnership of Rutan and the Wyman-Gordon Company, who also acquired the rights to a number of the designs, including Model 81 Catbird. The aircraft won the CAFE Foundation's 1988 California CAFE 400 race flown by Mike Melvill, in which aircraft compete for performance efficiency, as measured by fuel consumption, speed and payload.[2] Piloted by Dick Rutan, it subsequently won the 1993 CAFE Challenge with a record score and a speed of 210.73 mph (339.14 km/h), fuel consumption of 20.15 mpg (US miles and gallons) and a payload of 976.63 pounds (442.99 kg).[2][3]


Catbird set two world records which as of May 2012 still stand. The first was in Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) class C-1b (land planes with takeoff weight of between 500 and 1000 kg) speed over a closed circuit of 2 000 km 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) without payload. For this record, set at Mojave piloted by Dick Rutan, a speed of 401.46 km/h (249.46 mph) was achieved. The second record was set in class C-1c (aircraft between 1000 and 1750 kg takeoff weight), over the same course but piloted by Mike Melvill, at a speed of 413.78 km/h (257.11 mph).[4]

Catbird in storage

The aircraft was stored inverted from the ceiling of Scaled Composites' Mojave hangar until April 2011. The aircraft was restored to flying condition by Zach Reeder, Jim Reed and Mike Melvill. Catbird's second first flight was July 7, 2011.

Specifications (Scaled Composites Model 81 Catbird)[edit]

Data from EAA

General characteristics


  • Maximum speed: 238 kn; 441 km/h (274 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 218 kn; 404 km/h (251 mph)
  • Rate of climb: 2,000 ft/min (10 m/s)


  • Northstar M1 Loran

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


External links[edit]