Employed as a civilian flight test project engineer with the United States Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California where he worked on nine different Air Force research projects.
Became the Director of Development at the Bede Test Center in Newton, Kansas in 1972. Projects there included the BD-5, the BD-6 and the BD-J5 or “pocket rocket” jet, which has since been featured in movies and numerous air shows worldwide.
Started the Rutan Aircraft Factory which developed and marketed innovative “canard” airplane designs for aviators interested in building their own light craft at home. He also created ground-breaking planes as the VariViggen, the VariEze, the Quickie, the Solitaire, the AD-1, the Amsoil Racer, the Defiant, the Long-EZ, and the world-renowned Voyager.
Designed, built and tested 17 manned prototype research aircraft and several unmanned aerospace projects for both commercial and government clients.
Founded Scaled Composites, Inc. in 1982 which designed and produced the 108 foot wing sail for the 1988 America’s Cup Challenge Race.
Created the Voyager, the first airplane to fly around the world nonstop without refueling, covering 24,986 miles in 216 hours in December 1986.
Awarded the FAI Gold Medal, the 1987 Collier Trophy and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots’ Doolittle Trophy for his work on the Voyager.
Logged over 3000 hours pilot time and flew all his 26 manned aircraft designs (except the Raptor and the Voyager).