Voyager Aircraft’s non-stop and unrefueled flight around the world in December of 1986 placed Mojave proudly on the map and placed Dick Rutan in the history books.
In May of 2000, Dick Rutan was a last minute addition to a sightseeing airplane trek to the North Pole. The biplane, a Russian AN-2 Antonov, landed beautifully on the glass-like ice, but within seconds, the joyride was headed for disaster. Unseasonably thin, the ice quickly began to stress and crack under the weight of the plane. A quick power-up to ‘go-around’ and locate a thicker spot on the ice resulted in the aircraft suddenly dipping nose first through the ice, sinking toward the freezing ocean, and certain death. The wings of the AN-2 suspended the aircraft so the crew could retrieve their survival equipment that was packed in the rear of the sinking plane. For more than a dozen hours, the crew was stranded at the top of the world. In the distance, they heard a faint engine and soon would see the Twin Otter from First Air that would rescue them and return them to their families.
In 1998, Dick Rutan attempted to make the first ever flight around the world in a balloon in the Global Hilton. That attempt ended three hours after takeoff. The balloon’s helium cell ruptured (due to a manufacturer’s defect) while the team floated at 30,000 feet. When the crew was at a safer 6,000 foot altitude, the crew dramatically bailed from the crippled craft. The capsule landed unmanned in Texas and burst into flames.
Within minutes of landing on terra firma, Dick pledged to try again, and built a second capsule called World Quest. This, with a new constrained volume helium lifting system (super pressure style) held promise Dick would indeed succeed in balloon world flight. The World Quest Project ceased when a rival team captured the milestone in March of 1999.
From April 4th to June 24th of 1997, Dick completed The Spirit of EAA Friendship World Tour, along with flight lead, Mike Melvill. This “Around The World In 80 Nights” flight was completed in two small experimental Long-EZ (pronounced Long Easy) aircraft that Dick and Mike built side by side almost twenty years ago.
Dick obtained his balloon pilot’s license in 1995 (Commercial free air balloon; helium and hot air), and he is a frequent sight over the Antelope Valley in the early morning hours aboard his personal multicolored Raven hot air balloon.
Since Voyager’s world flight, Dick has been traveling the world on the lecture circuit, telling his tale of the magnificent Voyager project and flight and of the North Pole adventure. The Voyager story is one of tremendous courage, of vision, and of adventure and is often referred to as ‘aviation’s last first.’
Dick received both his solo pilot’s license and driver’s license on his sixteenth birthday. At the age of nineteen, Dick joined the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program, was commission Lieutenant and later received a Bachelor of Science Degree at the American Technological University through the Air Force Professional Education “Boot Strap” Program.
As a Tactical Air Command fighter pilot during most of his two decades in the Air Force, Rutan flew 325 combat missions in Vietnam, 105 of them as a member of a high-risk classified operation commonly known as the MISTY’s.” While on his last strike reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam in September of 1968, he was hit by enemy ground fire, and forced to eject from his burning F-100. Dick evaded enemy capture and was later rescued by the Air Force’s “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter team. Before retiring from the Air Force in 1978, Lt. Col. Rutan had been awarded the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals and the Purple Heart.
After retirement, Dick joined his brother, Burt, as Production Manager and Chief Test Pilot for Rutan Aircraft Factory. Dick Rutan flew the test flight development program of many military and civilian experimental aircraft and set numerous world speed and distance records in his Long-EZ, a popular Rutan designed home-built airplane. Dick was awarded the Louis Bleriot Medal by the prestigious Federation Aeronautique Internationale during a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium in recognition of these record-setting flights.
In early 1981, Dick Rutan resigned from his brother’s company and founded Voyager Aircraft, Inc., and prepared to complete the first-ever around the world, non-stop, non-refueled flight. On the morning of December 14, 1986, a fuel laden Voyager took off on the history making flight. Nine days, three minutes and forty four seconds later, Dick set the storm-battered Voyager down on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, successfully completing the six-year quest. The Voyager is now proudly suspended in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s “Milestones of Flight” gallery in our nation’s capitol.
Four days following the historic flight of the Voyager, President Ronald Reagan awarded Dick the Presidential Citizen’s Medal of Honor at a special ceremony.
Dick now resides in Lancaster, California, with his wife, Kris, who is a kindergarten teacher. She has two daughters, Shannon and Kelly. Dick also has two lovely daughters, Holly and Jill, and four granddaughters, Noelle, Haley, Jordan and Natasha.
An Arctic Adventure
This 60-minute program is about Dick’s sightseeing tour turned survival mission at the North Pole. Includes exclusive video footage of the AN-2 crashing through the ice! A real-life survival and adventure story!
Around and On Top Of The World
This 90-minute program begins with video and stills about the Voyager project and includes exciting footage from the North Pole Adventure.
The World’s Longest Flight
This 90-minute program details the dream; the desire and determination that made the Voyager project a historic success!
One World, One Flight
This is a 30-minute Keynote address about the Voyager project. Stresses teamwork, and incredible can-do spirit.