Yeager in 1986 in front of Voyager
|Spouse(s)||Jon A. Farrar (1971–1976)|
William Z. Williams (1992–1994)
Dale A. Rinehart (1994–1996)
|Awards||Presidential Citizens Medal|
FAI De la Vaulx Medal
Edward Longstreth Medal
|Famous flights||The first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world with Dick Rutan|
Jeana Lee Yeager is an American aviator. She co-piloted, along with Dick Rutan, the first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world in the Rutan Voyager aircraft from December 14 to 23, 1986. The flight took 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds and covered 24,986 miles (40,211 km), more than doubling the old distance record set by a Boeing B-52 strategic bomber in 1962.
Early life and career
Jeana Lee Yeager was born on May 18, 1952, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Royal Lee Yeager (March 12, 1918 - March 17, 2001) and Mary Frances Yeager (née Dewberry) (March 17, 1920 – November 13, 2017). moving with her family to Garland, Texas; Oxnard, California; and Commerce, Texas. Following graduation from high school, Yeager, at age 19, married a police officer but divorced five years later. She worked as a draftsman and surveyor for a geothermal energy company in Santa Rosa, California. In 1978, she obtained her private pilot's license while still living in Santa Rosa.
Jeana went to work for Robert Truax who was developing a reusable spacecraft. She met Dick Rutan in 1980 and they soon both set distance records in the Rutan VariEze and Long-EZ planes, designed by Dick's brother Burt Rutan. In early 1982, Jeana set a new women's speed record for the 2,000-kilometer closed course and in the fall of 1984 using the VariEze, she set the open-distance record of 2,427.1 statute miles.
Jeana and Dick Rutan decided to attempt to fly around the world without refueling. They formed Voyager Aircraft, Inc., and Burt Rutan began designing the aircraft. Initially unable to find a commercial sponsor, Jeana started the Voyager Impressive People (VIP) program which became the major source of money to build, test, and fly the aircraft. By mid-1986, Voyager was ready for the flight. She flew as copilot on the 216-hour flight and set a world absolute distance record. This was the first time a woman had been listed in an absolute category.
In recognition of the Voyager flight, she received the Harmon Trophy, the FAI De la Vaulx Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Ronald Reagan (1986) and the Collier Trophy, its first female recipient—receiving the latter two honors along with Dick and Burt Rutan. She was also awarded the Edward Longstreth Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1988. In 2013, Flying magazine ranked her (with Dick Rutan) No. 33 on their list of the 51 Heroes of Aviation.
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- Yeager, Jeana; Patton, Phil; Dick, Rutan (February 1989). Voyager. HarperCollins. p. 416. ISBN 0060971975.
- Baldwin, Louis (1996). Women of strength : biographies of 106 who have excelled in traditionally male fields, A.D. 61 to the present. Jefferson, NC [u.a.]: McFarland. p. 254. ISBN 0786402504.