In 1980, a former United States Air Force pilot called Dick Rutan met fellow pilot Jeana Yeager (no relation of Chuck Yeager) at an airshow in Chino, California. Romance blossomed between the two, and Yeager became a test pilot at Rutan’s aircraft company, which he ran with his aerospace designer brother, Burt. Over lunch one day at the Mojave Inn in 1981, the three of them discussed making an aircraft capable of being the first aircraft to circumnavigate the World without landing or refuelling.

Over the next five year’s they refined the initial design that Burt sketched on a napkin to create Voyager. The aircraft had a lightweight fuselage made from carbon fibre, fibreglass and Kevlar. Engines powered propellers at the front and rear, with the front only used to provide the extra power for take-off and the early part of the flight.

At 8.01am local time on 14th December 1986, Dick and Jeanna lifted off from the runway at Edwards’ Air Force Base, California, to embark on their record-breaking flight attempt. Despite a tricky take-off, in which Voyager’s wing-tips sustained damaged, and course changes necessitated by the weather and a lack of permission to fly in Libyan airspace, over the next five days the pair flew their westward course around the World. Approaching California one of the fuel pumps failed; nevertheless, they successfully landed back at Edwards’ on 23rd December, having flown 26,366 miles (42,432 km) in nine days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

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