YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Scaled Composites to Leave State : Aerospace: Aircraft designer Burt Rutan, who runs the small Mojave firm, cites crime, drugs and graffiti.


Acclaimed aircraft designer Burt Rutan said Wednesday that he is sick of "the lousy schools, crime, drugs, graffiti and proliferation of lawyers" in California and has decided to move his small Mojave firm, Scaled Composites Inc., to another state.

Although the company is small by aerospace industry standards, employing just 75, the maverick operation is internationally known for its achievements in aeronautics designs--including the Voyager aircraft that circled the Earth without refueling in 1986.

Rutan said he has not decided on a new location but is in discussions with Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas, which had offered to move his machinery free of charge, supply a new facility, train his workers and provide cash grants of up to $2,000 for each job he creates.

Rutan said social and economic problems have long been considered a Los Angeles problem but that in recent years they have migrated north to Mojave, which he called a "crummy little desert town."

Rutan said he recommended relocating Scaled Composites to its corporate parent, Wyman Gordon, a Wooster, Mass.-based firm that produces aircraft landing gear and other aerospace forgings.

"The only thing that could delay our move, besides reforms in California that would make headlines in Time magazine, is my ability to sell or lease my building here," he said, adding the move would occur in 1994.

A California Trade and Commerce Agency official had visited the plant six months ago to head off the move, but the representative quit his job without referring the case to other officials, Rutan said. Since then, other officials have contacted the firm but without any specific solutions to its problems.

Scaled Composites, which builds aircraft and spacecraft with reinforced plastic composites, is located in a hangar at the Mojave airport, a major center of aircraft testing and evaluation in the West.

Rutan gained much of his early fame with designs for small, lightweight aircraft that used special control surfaces, an innovation that combat aircraft designers quickly began to adopt.

In 1988, the Pentagon funded an experimental effort by Rutan to build a double-winged transport aircraft that could operate on short runways. The design never progressed beyond the first prototype.

A similar innovation came out in 1990 when Rutan unveiled an experimental ground attack jet. By then, his fame had grown so wide that the debut attracted Air Force generals and John Cashen, one of the principal designers of the B-2 stealth bomber.

Earlier this year, the firm built the shell for a McDonnell Douglas rocket designed to reach orbit in a single stage. And it is currently producing fuselages for the Pegasus space launch system.

Rutan said he has not been a victim of crime and has no horror stories about state regulation. But he said the firm's medical care costs and workers' compensation costs for 1993 threatens his continued profitability. He said his health care costs have risen 49%, even though only one of his employees has had a serious illness requiring heart surgery.

Rutan was also involved in a dispute with the Kern County Board of Supervisors over a housing project near his home.

Los Angeles Times Articles