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The Round-the-world Flight of Voyager


In 1986, a two-person team completed the world’s first round-the-world flight without stopping to refuel.

These two people were Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager. The plane was called Voyager.

Californians both, they hatched the idea with Dick’s brother Burt at a lunch meeting, during which Burt Rutan, an airplane designer, drew a sketch of the plane on a napkin. The three later had the plane built using extremely lightweight materials. Unloaded, it weighed 939 pounds.

Loaded, however, the plane weighed about 9,700 pounds. It was crammed full of fuel. It had to be. It’s more than 26,000 miles around the world.

They took off from California’s Edwards Air Force Base on December 14, 1986. Nine days later, they landed and made history.

Along the way, they had to overcome several obstacles. First of all, the plane was very heavy. The wings scraped on the ground when the plane took off. They almost ran out of room on the ground. The runway was 15,000 feet long, and it took them 14,200 feet to take off. Also, the pilots soon became tired. The plane had a small cockpit that was very cramped. As a result, neither Dick nor Jeana slept a whole lot during those nine days in the air.

They also had to fly around severe weather, including a typhoon. One country, Libya, refused to let them fly over, so they had to go around. When they finally landed back in California, they had only a few gallons of fuel left.

It was the first time anyone had flown around the world without stopping to put more fuel in a plane. It wasn’t the last. A few people have done it since then, in a shorter amount of time. But it made history.

Graphics courtesy of ClipArt.com


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