Burt Rutan’s prototype VariEze made its public debut at EAA Oshkosh 1975. Rutan was already well-known among experimental aircraft enthusiasts for his VariViggen — a two-place homebuilt design inspired by the Saab 37 Viggen jet fighter.
Rutan originally intended to use N7EZ only as a research aircraft for testing canard designs and configurations. While at Oshkosh, N7EZ set a world closed-course distance record of 1,638 miles, flying for 13 hours, 8 minutes, and 45 seconds on 40 gallons of fuel. But the airplane attracted so much positive interest that Rutan designed and built a slightly larger, more powerful version and offered plans for sale. That design became the very popular VariEze homebuilt.
Later, Rutan introduced a long-range version of the VariEze called the Long-EZ, designing it with more room, more fuel, and more payload. Like the VariEze, the Long-EZ was a hit with homebuilders. Several thousand VariEzes and Long-EZs are flying or under construction around the world.
Besides their innovative designs, the VariEze and Long-EZ introduced many homebuilders to composite construction — a sandwich of rigid polyfoam skinned with fiberglass. While Rutan did not invent composite construction, he refined the techniques for homebuilding and commercial manufacturing of composite aircraft structures. His designs and construction techniques helped make it possible for amateur builders to produce safe, fast, good-looking, and economical sport aircraft.