It was called the last great goal in flying.It would be a flight around the world without stopping or adding more fuel.Today,Frank Oliver and Doug Johnson tell about a special plane called Voyager and the effort to set a difficult world record.
Voyager began as a quick drawing on a small piece of paper.Six years later,the drawing was a plane that made history.
Many people gave their time,energy and money to help make the flight happen.But three people had lead parts in the event.Dick Rutan.Burt Rutan.And Jeana Yeager.
Dick Rutan was an experienced flier.He had been a pilot in the United States military during the war in Vietnam.After the war,he worked as a test pilot.He flew planes designed by his younger brother Burt.
Burt Rutan was well-known as a designer of experimental planes.And Jeana Yeager held nine world flight records as a pilot.
One day in early nineteen eighty-one,Dick,Burt and Jeana were eating in a restaurant in Mojave,California.Burt turned to his brother and asked a wild question:"How would you like to be the first person to fly around the world without stopping to
The three considered the idea.A non-stop flight around the world without re-fueling was the last flight record to be set.The flight always had been considered impossible.No plane could carry enough fuel to fly that far:forty thousand kilometers.
But now there were new materials for planes.Burt thought he could build a plane that could make the voyage.Dick and Jeana thought they could fly it.No one could think of a good reason not to try.
Burt picked up a small piece of paper.He drew an airplane that looked like a giant wing,and not much more.That was the beginning.
Not since the days of Orville and Wilbur Wright had the people making a record flight designed and built their own aircraft.Dick,Burt and Jeana did.Some people thought their Voyager project was both impossible and foolish.Everyone knew it would be dangerous.
The Voyager crew worked on the plane in a small building at an airport in California's Mojave Desert.Dick,Burt and Jeana received no government money.Instead,they got small amounts of money from lots of different people.
As news of the project spread,more and more people offered to help.There were aviation engineers and workers from the space agency's experimental plane project.Several airplane companies offered equipment to be used in the plane.When Voyager was finished,it had two million dollars'worth of parts in it.
Burt Rutan had built light-weight planes before.He knew a normal plane made of aluminum metal could not make a trip around the world without adding fuel.So his solution was to build Voyager almost completely out of new materials.The materials were very light,but very strong.This meant Voyager could lift and carry many times its weight in fuel.
The finished plane weighed just nine hundred kilograms,about the weight of a small car.The full load of fuel weighed three times that much,about three thousand kilograms.Voyager was not built to be a fast plane.It flew about one hundred seventy-five kilometers an hour.
The main wing of the finished plane was more than thirty-three meters across.That is wider than the main wing on today's big passenger planes.The center part of the plane held the crew.And on either side of this body were two long fuel tanks.
In fact,almost all of the Voyager was a fuel tank.Seventeen separate containers were squeezed into every possible space.During the flight,the pilots had to move fuel from container to container to keep the plane balanced.One engine at each end of the body of the plane provided power.
The area for the two pilots was unbelievably small.It was just one meter wide by two-and-one-quarter meters long.The person flying the plane sat in the pilot's seat.The other person had to lie down at all times.
After many test flights,the Voyager was finally ready in December,nineteen eighty-six.The best weather for flying around the world is from June to August.That time was far past.But the pilots were tired of delays.They made the decision to take off,knowing the weather might be bad.
On December fourteenth,Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager walked around the plane one more time.It looked like a giant white flying insect.They were going to be trusting their lives to this strange plane for the next nine days.
Dick climbed into the only seat.Jeana lay on the floor.They were ready to go.Flight controllers at Edwards Air Force Base in California cleared them for a trip no one had ever attempted before.
The long,thin wings of the plane were so loaded with fuel that they almost touched the ground.Voyager began to move down the runway,slowly.But something was wrong.The ends of the wings were not lifting.
Burt Rutan sent a radio message to his brother to lift the plane's nose."Pull back on the stick!"he scr