The Rutan Model 76 Voyager was the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling. The flight ended in 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds, on December 23, after it took off on December 14, 1986, from Edwards Air Force Base's 15,000 foot (4,600 m) long runway in the Mojave Desert, setting a flight endurance record. The aircraft flew westerly for 26,366 statute miles at an average altitude of 11,000 feet thus breaking a previous flight distance record set by the United States Air Force crew piloting a Boeing B-52 that flew 12,532 miles (20,168 km) in 1962. The aircraft safely came back to earth in front of 55,000 spectators and a large press contingent. There were 23 live feeds broadcasting the events across Europe and North America. The aircraft touched down at 8:06 am after 9 days at the same airfield. Rutan made three dramatic low passes before touching down.
It was piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager. Dick Rutan is an American aviator. He was born in Loma Linda, California, where he gained an interest in flight at a young age. In recognition of this achievement, she received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan (1986), the Harmon Trophy, the FAI De la Vaulx Medal, and is the first woman to have received the Collier Trophy. She also received Edward Longstreth Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1988. Jeana set the open-distance record of 2,427.1 statute miles in the fall of 1984 using the VariEze after she set a new women's speed record for the 2000 km closed course in 1982. She also, like Dick Rutan, won the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Harmon Trophy, the FAI De la Vaulx Medal, Edward Longstreth Medal from the Franklin Institute and the Collier Trophy.
The aircraft was first imagined by Jeana Yeager, Dick and his brother Burt Rutan as they were at lunch in 1981. Voyager had front and rear propellers, powered by separate engines. It was originally flown on June 22, 1984, powered by Lycoming O-235 engines with fixed-pitch propellers. On July 15, 1986, Dick and Jeana completed a test flight, off of the coast of California, in which they flew for 111 hours and 44 minutes, traveling 11,857 statute miles.
The length of the aircraft is 29 ft 2 in while the wingspan were 110 ft 8 in. Height of the aircraft is 10 ft 3 in and the wing area is 363 ft. The aircraft weighed around 939 pounds when empty and its frame is largely made of fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar. Voyager is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.