Josh Wakefield and Richard Glenn "Dick" Rutan
July 25, 2006 at EAA AirVenture - Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Richard Glenn “Dick” Rutan (born July 1, 1938) is an aviator who piloted the Voyager aircraft around the world non-stop with the assistance of Jeana Yeager. He was born in Loma Linda, California, where he gained an interest in flight at a young age. On his 16th birthday, he was busy earning both his driver's license and pilot certificate.

He soon began a military career, joining the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program at age 19 and later becoming a lieutenant in the Air Force. Rutan served during the Vietnam War, and flew 325 missions, but he had to eject when his F-100 aircraft was hit. He had to eject a second time in his Air Force career when his aircraft suffered an engine failure over England. Through his career, he was awarded the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals, and a Purple Heart.

Following military service, Dick headed an aircraft company with his brother Burt Rutan. It was during a 1981 lunch meeting at California's Mojave Inn that the Voyager project was conceived: Dick and Jeana Yeager met with Burt Rutan to discuss their idea of starting an aviation company. During lunch, they spoke of creating an aircraft that could fly nonstop around the world. Burt, an aircraft designer, sketched on a napkin the plane design that would enable Dick and Jeana Yeager to break the flight distance record of 12,532 miles (20,168 kilometers) set by a B-52 Stratofortress bomber in 1962. To realize Burt's design, they assembled a team of more than 50 and refined — over the next nearly six years — Burt's original design, a process which included testing and studying a variety of lightweight materials. The team eventually selected a combination of graphite, fiberglass, and Kevlar for Voyager's main structure.

Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager took off in Voyager on December 14, 1986 from Edwards Air Force Base's 15,000 foot (4570 meter) runway. They struggled throughout the flight with weather, stress, and the continuing demand for fuel. They were even denied access to the airspace above Libya. Finally, after 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds of flight, they touched down on December 23 with only a few gallons of fuel remaining. The 24,986-mile (40,211 km) trip yielded Rutan and Yeager numerous awards.


Dick Rutan and Josh Wakefield at EAA AirVenture 2005


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