I recently saw a Rutan Vari Eze parked at the airport and I was wondering why the nose landing was up during parking. How does it work for a pilot to get in? Can the pilot put down the landing gear while sitting in the cockpit or has the pilot to put it down while standing outside? And what's the idea behind such a construction, why isn't there just a normal landing gear?

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Rutan Vari Eze during parking, with the nose gear up

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Rutan Vari Eze before takeoff, with the nose gear down


2 Answers 2


For getting in, the nose has to be physically raised before the pilot can board the aircraft:

When the aircraft is parked, the NLG is retracted and the aircraft rests on the bumper at the front of the aircraft, in what is described as the 'kneeled' position.

Extension of the NLG requires the front of the aircraft to be physically raised, after which the NLG extension system is operated from the cockpit.

To begin the NLG extension, a handle in the cockpit is turned in he extend direction. This handle is connected to a shaft that turns a worm gear and crown wheel, and the rotation of the crown wheel drives the actuating rms of the NLG in the down direction. When the NLG is extended, an extra 1.5 turns of the handle causes the crown wheel to drive the actuating arms over-centre, which locks the gear in the fully down position.

After this, the pilot boards the aircraft. On some aircraft, linear actuators seems to have been fitted for this purpose:

In recent years the application of general purpose, 12 volt, linear actuators came into use for electrical actuation of the nose gear with the airplane loaded.

With the linear actuator the airplane can be parked nose down for stability, boarded (in the nose down position) and raised by the push of a button.

As noted above, this design has been adopted for stability- As the engine is on the rear, if the pilot is not in the aircraft, it can tip backwards, damaging the propeller. This also acts as a parking brake.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ FWIW, actually getting in to a VariEze is much easier than describing how to get into one! $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2016 at 15:07
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Very interesting to hear. Such a construction can only be from Rutan. $\endgroup$
    – Pascal
    Oct 25, 2016 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, the KSP method of staying put when parked. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Apr 27, 2018 at 3:01

From the Wikipedia article:

In place of a parking brake, the plane's nosewheel retracts until the nose rests on the ground. Resting the nose on the ground also moves the plane's center of gravity forward relative to the main landing gear, which prevents the plane from tipping onto its rear when there is nobody in the pilot's seat to weigh the nose down.

It's not at all unsurprising that this is a Rutan aircraft; certainly it could have been designed with a different layout and more conventional landing gear, but Rutan seems to design things differently simply because he can. It might be impractical, but it's a lot more fun!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure it really is impractical though. Along with eliminating the weight/complexity of the parking brake, the nose-down attitude means the airfoils are almost certainly lifting downward, so given a strong wind from a generally front-ward direction, they will be pushing the plane down onto the ground (where most planes would be producing lift). This should help keep them stably parked in event of a storm (or similar). $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2016 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ AFAIK, one of the stated goals of the design was self-recovering stall, which is naturally achieved with the canard design. Which, in turn, favours pusher prop, which makes a tail boom difficult to design, which then leads to VariEze layout. Which is naturally tail-heavy without payload. So... I think it's a very efficient and reasonable compromise for this class of aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Oct 26, 2016 at 3:06

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