Business

September 18, 2013

Dick Rutan recalls historic round-the-world flight

The Burt Rutan-designed, single-purpose Voyager is shown during a test flight that led up to its non-stop unrefueled flight around the world in December 1986.

Nearly 27 years ago, the one-of-a-kind, purpose-built Voyager aircraft embarked on a non-stop, unrefueled flight around the world, setting a world record that remains unchallenged today.

Dick Rutan, the pilot of this historic flight that departed from and landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the Southern California desert, recently recounted the Voyager’s almost 25,000-mile circumnavigation of the globe to employees at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

“I got to really hate this airplane. I felt not only was it not going to work, but I would probably die in it,” Rutan said of the Voyager, the aircraft his brother Burt Rutan designed. “Yes, it had terrible flying qualities, but it had to make it around the world. Burt knew that it must have major compromises to make it around the world.”

Essentially a flying fuel tank, the Voyager lifted off Edwards’ main runway early in the morning of Dec. 14, 1986, rolling down almost the entire length of the 15,000-foot-long runway and scraping off one of its wingtip winglets before it became airborne. When it touched down on the same runway shortly after 8 a.m. on Dec. 23 after nine days, three minutes and 44 seconds in the air, it had less than two hours worth of fuel remaining.

The non-stop unrefueled flight, which more than doubled the previous distance record set in 1962 by a U.S. Air Force B-52H, remains a world record and an unduplicated aeronautical feat.

Also, the flight arguably deserved an award for being the worst date in history. Rutan shared the bathtub-sized cockpit for a week and a half with his then-girlfriend Jeana Yeager (no relation to famed Air Force test pilot Brig. Gen. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager).

Rutan even brought a small plastic bag with an adhesive, circular opening to answer the question he said he is often asked firstóhow did you go to the bathroom?

Despite the pains and dangers of flying the Voyager, Rutan said the flight “was arguably aviation’s last milestone.”

During his presentation, Rutan showed a video of the Voyager’s take off. The approximately two-minute video starts with the lightweight aircraft taking almost the entire length of one of the world’s longest runways to lift off. The video ends with a chase plane flown by Burt Rutan following the Voyager on the first leg of its flight before Burt turned back.

“They got 100 knots,” Rutan said quoting his brother Burt. “I didn’t think they’d make it.”

When the Voyager returned to Edwards Air Force Base, Rutan said he expected to land and park in a remote corner of the flight line. He was surprised to find tens of thousands waiting for his return.

Rutan remains a resident of the Mojave area, and is currently a member of the governing board of the Mojave Air and Space Port, as well as serving as a test pilot for XCOR Aerospace. The Voyager is enshrined in the Milestones of Flight gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
“That dry lake bed is sacred ground,” Rutan said of Rogers Dry Lakebed at Edwards. “Maybe when I die they can spread my ashes out there.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines December 19, 2014

News: SpaceX’s attempt to land rocket on floating barge postponed - It’s set to be one of the most groundbreaking moments in humanity’s six decades of space exploration. Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill into law - President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion federal spending measure into law Dec. 16, officially ending any threat of a government...
 
 

News Briefs December 19, 2014

Trial set for ex-Navy engineer in military secrets case A former Navy civilian engineer is scheduled to stand trial next summer on charges of trying to steal aircraft carrier schematics. Media outlets report that 35-year-old Mostafa Awwad of Yorktown, Va., pleaded not guilty Dec. 17 to two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Army to launch cruise missile-detecting aerostat at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez The Army plans to launch an aerostat, part of the “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor,” in late December 2014. The JLENS aerostat will be tethered to the...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan

AF delivers Iraqi F-16s for training in US

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan Iraqi air force captain Hama conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon Dec. 17, 2014, located at the nearby Tucson International Airport...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn

Short-notice: A new way to exercise

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepare for an aeromedical evacuation exercise on a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 5, 2014, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The operation was executed in supp...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe

Japan, Australia to provide F-35 maintenance sites in Pacific region

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter carrier variant prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2014. Japan and Australia will be sharing...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>