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Dick Rutan standing next to the engine of the XCOR EZ-Rocket
July 1, 1938 |
Loma Linda, California
|Alma mater||Reedley Junior College|
|Spouse(s)||Geri Rutan (divorced)
|Children||Jill Rutan Hoffman, Holly Rutan|
|Parents||George and Irene Goforth Rutan|
Richard Glenn "Dick" Rutan (born July 1, 1938) is an aviator who piloted the Voyager aircraft around the world non-stop with co-pilot Jeana Yeager. He was born in Loma Linda, California, where he gained an interest in flight at a young age.
Air Force service 
He soon began a military career, joining the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program at age 19 and later becoming a lieutenant in the Air Force. Rutan served during the Vietnam War with the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Phu Cat Air Base, completing 325 combat missions. 105 came while serving as a "Fast FAC" (Misty 40) with Project Commando Sabre, Detachment 1 of the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the second highest total of sorties flown by the 157 Misty pilots. On August 17, 1967, his Misty tour ended when his F-100F was shot down, although he and his back-seat pilot were both rescued. He ejected a second time when the aircraft he was flying over England experienced engine failure. Through his career, he was awarded the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals, and a Purple Heart.
Voyager project 
Following military service, Dick headed an aircraft company with his brother Burt Rutan. It was during a 1981 lunch meeting at California's Mojave Inn that the Voyager project was conceived: Dick and Jeana Yeager met with Burt Rutan to discuss their idea of starting an aviation company. During lunch, they spoke of creating an aircraft that could fly nonstop around the world. Burt, an aircraft designer, sketched on a napkin the plane design that would enable Dick and Jeana Yeager to break the flight distance record of 12,532 miles (20,168 kilometers) set by a B-52 Stratofortress bomber in 1962. To realize Burt's design, they assembled a team of more than 50 and refined — over the next six years — Burt's original design, a process which included testing and studying a variety of lightweight materials. The team eventually selected a combination of graphite, fiberglass, and Kevlar for Voyager's main structure. The flight weight of its gasoline was approximately 9 times that of Voyager's final structure.
Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager took off in Voyager on December 14, 1986 from Edwards Air Force Base's 15,000-foot (4,600 m) runway. They struggled throughout the flight with weather, poor visibility of clouds and mountains, at night stress, sleep deprivation, a failing engine cooling water pump, and the continuing demand to exactly manage fuel. They were even denied access to the airspace above Libya. Finally, after 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds of flight, and a harrowing extended sudden stoppage of their engine power as they flew up the California coast, they touched down on December 23 with only a few gallons of fuel remaining. The 24,986-mile (40,211 km) trip yielded Rutan and Yeager numerous awards.
Other aviation projects 
In February 1998, Rutan attempted to repeat the round-the-world feat in a balloon, but failed in that attempt when its fabric helium-filled envelope structure developed tears. In 1997 Dick and Mike Melvill flew around the world in two Rutan Long-EZ aircraft that each had constructed, with some legs of the trip extending over 14 hrs. in length.
Campaign for congress 
In 1992 Rutan ran as a conservative Republican against Democratic congressman George Brown, Jr. in California's 42nd congressional district. The district comprised most of the San Bernardino region of southern California and was viewed as a swing district. In the Republican primary, Rutan upset San Bernardino County Supervisor Rob Hammock, who had run a strong race against Brown in 1990. In the general election, Rutan ran on a platform that called for reforming congress and lowering taxes. Brown, first elected in 1962, was long known for surviving close elections and prevailed once more with 79,780 votes (50.7%) to Rutan's 69,251 (44%). Fritz Ward, a Libertarian, received 8,424 votes or 5.3% of the vote. 
Besides the records Rutan set while flying Voyager, he has also set a number in his personal LongEze, including:
- FAI class C1b distance over a closed course of 7,725.3 km at Mojave on December 15, 1979.
- FAI class C1b distance of 7,344.56 km from Anchorage, Alaska to Grand Turk Island on June 5, 1981.
- Silver Star
- Distinguished Flying Cross, 5 times
- Air Medal, 16 times
- Purple Heart
- 1981 - Louis Bleriot Award - distance record
- 1986 - Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan
- 1986 - Collier Trophy
- 1986 - De la Vaulx Medal
- 1987 - Collier Trophy
- 1987 - Louis Bleriot Award - around-the-world flight
- 1988 - Edward Longstreth Medal of the Franklin Institute
- 2005 - Louis Bleriot Award - longest point-to-point rocket plane flight (XCOR EZ-Rocket)
- Works by or about Dick Rutan in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Remarks on Presenting Presidential Citizens Medals to the Designer and Crew of the Voyager in Los Angeles, California - December 29, 1986