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CNN LIVE AT DAYBREAK

The Rutan Brothers

Aired December 17, 2003 - 05:38   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Say the names Wilbur and Orville and you immediately know their last name was Wright and the subject is flight. It was 100 years ago today that Orville stayed airborne for a big 12 seconds. Since then, flight has changed in ways no one ever imagined back in 1903. Even today, there are still forward thinking pioneers.
CNN's Miles O'Brien introduces us to Dick and Burt, the Rutan brothers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you visit the brothers Rutan, be stoked and ready for some fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And off we go into the wild blue yonder.

O'BRIEN: That's Mohave, California, the high desert. It's a long way from Kitty Hawk. Or is it?

BURT RUTAN, AIRCRAFT DESIGNER: We're very different. Dick's the pilot. I'm the one that's fascinated and I get my thrill out of trying something new and proving it in aerodynamics.

O'BRIEN: A hundred years after the Wright brothers showed the world how potent a mix dreams, ingenuity and persistence can be, Burt and Dick Rutan see some kindred spirits across the years, across the continent.

B. RUTAN: They had the courage to try something that didn't exist. What I'm trying to do is to question what exists and say does it really have to be this complex, this dangerous, this expensive?

O'BRIEN: Time and again, the Rutans have proved price and complexity are no prerequisites to success. Burt Rutan's designs have always soared past the margins of conventional wisdom. The long easy that I flew with Dick is Burt's most successful design. It's a home built airplane. About 2,500 have taken flight.

(on camera): Now why don't they make more planes like these?

DICK RUTAN, TEST PILOT: People that run the companies are freaking idiots. No vision. They've got their head up their ass and they're all bookkeepers, to put it in the vernacular.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): You get a lot of vernacular when you spend time with Dick. He is, after all, a retired Air Force fighter jock. Burt is more polite and yet equally firm in his indictment of the status quo. The Rutans none too happy with the state of aviation in its centennial year.

(on camera): Is it a sad anniversary?

D. RUTAN: It is. I mean the '60s were phenomenal for space. I mean unbelievable risks taken, unbelievable progress in a little bit of time. What we've done in the last three decades, gosh.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Burt Rutan's flight test hangar is a busy place these days, as his team, funded by an anonymous sugar daddy, tweaks and tests a spacecraft capable of carrying three people on a short, suborbital flight. Spaceship One leaves the ground attached to the belly of a birdlike craft called White Knight. They have done several drop tests and are on the verge of lighting the candle, rocketing beyond the atmosphere.

B. RUTAN: I don't want to just go to a lower orbit and spend the rest of my life doing that. You know, I want to go to the planets.

O'BRIEN: A hundred years ago, no one believed the brothers from Dayton either. Nonsense has a way of becoming conventional wisdom and it all can change in places you'd least suspect.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, Mohave, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: A fascinating story. And Dick had some salty language this morning.

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