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November 12, 2005 - Burt Rutan Soars with Wings at “Next Giant Leap” Gala

What: Wings Over the Rockies Gala

Where: Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

When: November 12, 2005

Beneficiary: Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

Host(s): Carl Williams and Patrick Weisner

Mistress of Ceremonies: Gregg Moss, Business Reporter for 9NEWS

Honoree(s): Burt Rutan

Co-Chair(s): Carl Williams and Patrick Weisner

Executive Director: Greg Anderson / Wings CEO

Invocation: Col. John France, USAF Retired

Libations: Mondovino

Catering: Epicurean Catering

Entertainment: BeatleMania Live

Attendance: 850

Attire: Business Formal

Florist: The Perfect Petal

Event Coordinator: Courtney Walsh, Event Director

Decor/Rental Company: Event Rents

Executive Producer(s): Richter Scale Productions

Blacktie Photos by: Marcelo Mainzer


 Burt Rutan, Aviator, and Visionary
Burt Rutan, Aviator, and Visionary

Marcelo Mainzer

Those who go first are the giants on whose shoulders we all stand to glimpse the Universe.

On Saturday November the 12th the Wings Over the Rockies, Air & Space Museum, invited one of those giants to speak at the Wings Gala, themed as, “The Next Giant Leap.”

Burt Rutan, born in Estacada, Oregon, 30 miles southeast of Portland, began building and designing model airplanes when he was eight-years-old. His first solo flight in a real airplane was an Aeronca Champ in 1959, when he was sixteen. Over the years, Burt Rutan has designed hundreds of aircraft, including the now-famous Voyager, which flew non-stop flight around the world in nine days without refueling. He made headlines again in 2004 with Spaceship One, which became the first private craft to reach space in June of that year and win the Ansari X Prize.

The Wings event is a true gala, held in the huge space at hanger 14, even, 900 of Denver’s high society didn’t fill the space. Hanging from the ceiling and lined up along the walls and set up in several displays were airplanes, from small toys to enormous fighter jets, over thirty aircraft and more are being added all the time.

In addition to the aircraft, in rooms adjoining the hanger floor, the museum features; beautifully restored examples of period radio, telephone and avionics technology, twenty groupings of uniforms and other memorabilia from various airmen and women of World War II, an interactive history experience that celebrates the unique past of the Air National Guard, a Colorado Aviation Heritage room, the Eisenhower Room which exhibits examples of the furnishings, artwork and lifestyle of the president’s "Summer White House" in Denver. Other exhibits include the “Howard Model Collection,” “The Lowry Room,” “Science of Flight” and a “Timeline of Technology.”

The timeline for the Wings 2005 Gala began with a press conference with Burt Rutan including the Centennial Aviation and Business Journal, Space.Com and the winners of the Burt Rutan Design Competition; Aimee Kanode, Jill Hareclerod and Lauren Harclerode, to name a few of the fortunate who were able to speak with Mr. Rutan and hear a preview of what he would speak of later. The press conference was followed with a VIP reception, where staunch supporters of the Museum met in The Lowry Room, which houses an extensive collection of photos and memorabilia from throughout the history of Lowry Air Force Base. VIP’s enjoyed the delicious seafood appetizers prepared by Epicurean Catering and each others company before joining the hundreds of other supporters on the main hanger floor for the Gala.

Richter Scale Productions had set up a stage worthy of the USO and Emcee Gregg Moss, Business reporter for 9NEWS did resemble a very young Bob Hope as he called the group to take their seats. After welcoming one and all, Greg introduced The Air Force Academy Drill Corp. With a steady beat and flashing swords, they performed a precision demonstration in the Air Force tradition. The six young people were followed by, Bruce McCandless II (Captain, USN, Ret.) and former NASA Astronaut who led a group of aspiring leaders and flyers along with the rest of the audience in the pledge of allegiance.

When everyone returned to their seats, Gregg Moss introduced Pat Wiesner, Wings' Board Chairman, and Co-Chair of the 2005 event. Mr. Wiesner said, “You can tell there’s a lot of interesting things going on around Wing’s these days, and you’ll hear a lot about them tonight. Exciting for the museum, for Denver and for Colorado.”

Mr. Wiesner attributed the “good things going on around here” to the leadership of Greg Anderson, President and CEO of Wings. Pat gave as example of Greg’s leadership in the story of how Burt Rutan was persuaded to be the guest speaker. Pat recounted, the efforts made, by mail, to invite Burt Rutan to be the speaker, which received a polite reply saying that after the space launch, hundreds of offers had come in requesting him to speak but he was just to busy to come to Colorado. When Greg Anderson heard of this Pat said, he didn’t give up.

Greg’s response was, “Let’s go see him.” Pat, Greg and Rick Adam, of Adam Aircraft, flew up to see Burt and this personal approach convinced Burt Rutan to come to Wings. Pat said, referring to Greg Anderson, “Somebody who doesn’t take ‘no,’ gets things done.” Pat continued, “the reason this museum is a very successful venture, for Denver and Colorado, is do in no small part to Greg Anderson.” And with that he welcomed Greg Anderson to the podium.

Greg began by underplaying his part in what he referred to it as “Plan B.” Greg compared them to a modern day “Three Musketeers, after the Holy Grail,” giving credit to Pat, for his, “good looks and his airplane and Rick, with his business relationships.” Greg joked, “he carried most of the brains in the airplane” and continued, “I’m not sure why I went, but I went anyway, and we were successful!” Pausing a moment, Greg said, “I understand we had a plan C, kidnapping.”

“Burt, we couldn’t be more honored then to have you with us tonight, celebrating what you achieved and also looking forward to the next giant leap, the best is yet to come,” said Greg. In reference to 2003 Wings Gala, and celebration of the centennial of the Wright Brothers flight, Greg said, “During the century that followed, in every generation, flight has inspired Americans to be at their best.”

Greg talked about the history of aviation in those hundred years, culminating with the Moon landings. Mr. Anderson reminded supporters of last year’s Gala, when Aviator Extraordinaire Carl Williams was honored. He praised Carl for, “Helping us found, guide and sustain Wings through the years.” He continued, “This year we look ahead, we look to the future the century to come, the next generation and we look to the potential of this museum to shape that future.”

“Colorado,” Greg said, “Has always been a frontier for dreamers and doers,” and went on to give details of the state’s history. “Colorado now welcomes and should celebrate the pioneers of the space frontier,” calling to two of those frontiersmen to stand, Rick Adams and George Bye.

Later in the evening some of the young people that the museum is dedicated to educate and inspire took the stage. Erica Garner and Marie Buccholz, from the Wing’s “Wild Blue Wonder” program and Connor Duey an entrant in the design completion. After these future aviators left the stage, Greg Moss returned and led the live auction where each auction item offered a different aviation adventure, beginning with a chance to go to the EAA Fly-In at Oshkosh, WI and the opportunity of flying aboard the Denver Police Air One Helicopter patrol for an evening. Another rare item, a flight for seven aboard a vintage Flying Fortress and lastly, to fly in the sleek A500 designed partly by Mr. Rutan himself.

One of the “Musketeers” who went to persuade Burt to come to Colorado was given the honor of introducing him. Rick Adam of Adam Aircraft talked about Burt’s life and his continual involvement with flight since age eight. He mentioned the predecessor to the A500, the 309 in honor of the 309 aircraft designs accredited to Burt Rutan. Rick said, “I want to talk about heritage, the great thing that we are doing is to help children understand aviation.”

Burt took the stage, every bit the aviator in his leather jacket, face tanned from hours in the cockpit, restless pacing and that fierce look in the eyes of only one who has stared down at the earth and up to the stars. Burt Rutan is a flyer and as such a dreamer, but he is also an engineer and understands the practical steps to getting a job done. Burt said that what “distinguishes us from the animals is the fact that we explore, we look for something that’s out there, that’s better then what we have.”

Using projected graphs, Burt explained why we haven’t been able to leave the atmosphere, meaning commercial travel to at least a low orbit station. “The real problem is they are not working on it.” Burt reported that despite the enormous amounts of money that have been spent on space research, “Today, it’s more expensive and more dangerous to fly to orbit then it was in the sixties.”

Mr. Rutan talked about the three periods of time when enormous progress in flight happened in a very short period of time. He showed how in 1908 only ten people had flown, while only four years later in 1912; thousands of pilots had taken to the air. He said that in the early days, “if an airplane was built that took off and flew and landed, and the pilot was still alive, it had good flying qualities.” In 1955, when Burt was 12-years-old, Wernher von Braun appeared on television. Burt described him as, “not only a brilliant visionary and a brilliant engineer, but he was also a wonderful motivator.” He watched as von Braun explained how humans would go to mars.

Burt Rutan said he found that having been a test pilot for the military had been a good experience for designing airplanes later. He also spoke of the lessons he learned from the people who had purchased his plans for homebuilt airplanes. He learned what the public wanted. When he spoke about the sixties and the research it took to get to the moon, Burt said, “True research is when you are trying to reach a goal that half the people think is impossible.” He lamented that we don’t do that kind of research anymore.

Later Mr. Rutan summarized his pessimism about the lack of progress by saying, “I look for innovation cycles on the subject of higher speed travel”. He showed how each twenty-five years, until now, one form of travel replaces another. Burt believes that only when the technology is transferred to the private sector does the innovation cycle blossom. He showed that because of private sector involvement in high-speed travel innovation, in the next twenty-five years private air and spacecraft will out perform the military and be safer. In keeping with the timeline of history, the group BeatleMania performed the music of the Beatles from the songs of the early sixties to the late seventies, when music flew high then too.

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” -- Leonardo da Vinci

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