Weird plane or just plain weird? Craft is ‘a dream to fly,’ says Fruita grad
Friends and family were thrilled Tuesday when Fruita Monument High School alumnus Tres Clements touched down at Grand Junction Regional Airport in a distinctive airplane.
Folks oohed and aahed upon seeing the Boomerang Burt Rutan Model 202 aircraft, designed by Rutan, an aerospace engineer.
Clements, 27, was deeded the asymmetric plane by Rutan after updating it and promising not to sell it, but to turn it over to a museum in retirement, said Clements’ sister, Christy Hovland.
Clements and the first commercial pilot of SpaceShipOne, Mike Melville, landed in Grand Junction on a quick stopover in an effort to log hours onto the newly restored plane.
“It’s a dream to fly,” Clements said minutes after popping out of the plane. “It’s quiet. It has great control. You fly with your feet on the floor the entire time.”
The Boomerang is expected to be a highlight of an annual Experimental Aircraft Association air show in Oshkosh, Wis., at the end of July. Clements finished restoring the plane, outfitting it with a new instrument panel and modified rudder pedals to create more space for passengers.
Rutan is known for his original designs of light, strong airplanes and apparently designed the Boomerang as his “ideal airplane,” Hovland said.
The Boomerang, which had been run by a MacBook laptop computer, had been in retirement, but Clements offered to update it and get it back into the air, and Rutan agreed, Hovland said.
Rutan also is known for designing the Voyager, the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and for designing SpaceShipOne, a privately funded craft that offered commercial flights into space.
The Boomerang is a five-seat plane with twin-turbine engines that can travel at nearly 300 mph at altitudes up to 25,000 feet, Melville said.
The plane with its long, aerodynamic nose, appears to look unbalanced with the fuselage and one engine to one side of another engine.
“In a twin-engine, if you lose one engine, it’s pretty tricky to keep it under control,” Melville said. “If one engine goes out (in the Boomerang), it still flies straight.”
Clements and Melville landed at Grand Junction’s airport from Mojave, Ariz., to wrap up the plane’s first long flight after renovations. Pilots must log 25 hours of flying in the plane before it can be flown at the Oshkosh show, Melville said.
After Grand Junction, Melville and Clements plan to return to Mojave, where both work for Scaled Composites, Rutan’s company.
In 2004, Melville became the first commercial astronaut and the 434th person in space.
Clements graduated from Fruita Monument High School in 2002 and went on to graduate from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Clements is an airplane pilot and a hot-air balloon pilot and currently designs airplanes, Hovland said.