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Around the World in 9 Days - Voyager

By Patrick Mondout

In December of 1986, pilots Jeana Yeager (contrary to rumor, she is not the daughter of well known test pilot Chuck Yeager) and Richard Rutan (brother of designer of the aircraft they would use) set off to break the world record for the longest non-stop flight without a refuel. The previous record had been set in 1962 at 12,532 miles by a United States Air Force Boeing B-52H. In the end Yeager and Rutan would not only break the record but double it, and they circled the Earth for good measure.

Takeoff and Flight

Voyager took off from Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, California, on December 14, 1986. Imagine being locked up in a cell approximately 7 1/2 feet long, 3 1/3 feet wide and under three feet tall for nine days. Those were the dimensions of the cockpit!  A flight under such conditions is not only uncomfortable, but in a light-weight craft such as Voyager, it is dangerous as well. Rutan was quoted as saying, "If no one gets killed, we are not trying hard enough."

The primary reason Voyager was able to fly for so long was that it had less drag than almost any other powered aircraft and it was able to store an incredible amount of fuel for its size (the fuselage, wings, and other frame elements were entirely filled). In fact, with all that fuel takeoff weight was more than 10 times the structural weight. Voyager weighed only 1860 pounds (without fuel, pilots, and supplies). By comparison, the car I drive weighs in at 3400 pounds!

Landing

Voyager landed at Edwards at 8:06 A.M. on December 23, 1986, after a trip lasting nine days, three minutes, and 44 seconds. The image on the top-right shows part of the landing. Traveling at an average speed of 115.8 mph, Yeager and Rutan had nearly doubled the previous distance record by covering 25,012 miles. Could they have gone any further?  It was determined after landing that only a few gallons of fuel were remaining.

Among other accolades, the pair received the rarely awarded Presidential Citizen's Medal of Honor and the "Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award" from the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Where are they Now?

Voyager was formally enshrined in the main entrance lobby of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C., on May 6, 1987. Burt Rotan founded an aerospace company called Scaled Composites in 1982 (he is still the CEO).
 

References:

Heppenheimer, T.A. Turbulent Skies. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.1995.
Montgomery, Jeff, executive editor. Aerospace: The Journey of Flight. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Civil Air Patrol, 2000.
Pattillo, Donald M. Pushing the Envelope: The American Aircraft Industry. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1998.
Rodgers, Eugene. Flying High: The Story of Boeing and the Rise of the Jetliner Industry. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996.
Serling, Robert J. Legend and Legacy: The Story of Boeing and Its People. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
Gunston, Bill. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Commercial Aircraft. New York: Phoebus Publishing Co., 1980.
Mansfield, Harold. Vision, the Story of Boeing. New York: Madison Publishing, 1986.
Sabbagh, Karl. Twenty-First Century Jet: The Making and Marketing of the Boeing 777. New York: Scribner, 1996.

 

Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about the ? Were you a member of the flight crew on one? Have you any interesting stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"Jeana Yeager is now in northeast Texas breeding cutting horses. She still gives speeches about the flight and makes a few public appearances."

--Jeana's Manager

"In the early 1990's Jeana Yeager married Bill Williams, manufacturer of the engine oil additive "Microlon". Yeager and Williams were later in a dispute with Burt Rutan about whether Microlon was used in the Voyager flight."

--Anonymous

"Hi, my name is Bob van der Kuijl. As a dutch flightinstructor with Venpac Pacific Aviation in Oxnard, CA I had the fantastic pleasure of flying the 'Oxnard Air Rally' with Jeanna Yeager in 1989. For the last number of years I've been trying to get in touch with her to see how she is. If anyone can give me information on were to reach her I'd love to know!"

--bobvanderkuijl at Planet dot nl

"I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jeana Yeager at Grayson County Airport (F39) in Denison, TX. It is my understanding that she and a friend bought the local flight school (Grayson Flying Service) and are currently renovating it with the new name of Voyager Air Center. It is a fun place to visit, with lots of Voyager artifacts and info."

--Ash


 

FLYING FACTS

Voyager weighed 1860 pounds and averaged 116 mph.

Courtesy NASA/Dryden FRC


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