The anniversary of the dream of world flight

A normal day like today, 14 december, 1986, the Voyager aircraft departed from Edwards Air Force Base in the Southern California using approximately 4.3 km of runway and a huge amount of fuel to fulfill the world record endurance without re-fueling and go around the world. Setting a world record that remains today it is awesome the high efficiency and capacity that this airplane had to beat the record.

Rutan Voyager. Source: Nasa

Despite having some difficulties when taking off as the wing tip was heavily damaged, the pilots agreed that the plane was still in condition to perform the flight, about eight kilometers from the Edwards base the right winglet was dislodged and fell into someone’s yard. To reduce stress, the two had originally intended to fly the plane in three-hour shifts but operational issues do not allow to work in this way.

“I got to really hate this airplane. I felt not only was it not going to work, but I would probably die in it.

Dick Rutan

The aircraft Voyager practically was a flying fuel tank with 8 storage tanks on each side of the airplane and one in the center making a sum of 17 tanks and 3,181 kilograms of fuel quantity. It is a fact that the aircraft was designed to be a high-fuel efficient plane using composite materials to reduce the weight that make up 98 percent of the structure, sandwich of paper honeycomb and graphite fiber well manufactured. The engines, two mounted on front and rear fuselage.

Jeana Yeager inside the Rutan Voyager, the view of the cabin. Source:Smithsonian Institution/airandspace.si.edu

Voyager demonstrated the strength and efficiency of an all-composite airframe by flying nonstop around the world without refueling

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

The Voyager flew an official distance of 42,212 kilometers, taking into account that the earth circumference is 40,075 km around the equator, so technically it can be said that it went more than around the world They flew at 186 km/h in an elapsed time of 216 hours, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds the (total flight time). Imagine the different scenarios and atmosphere conditions they faced where the wind, weather, and geography took a relevant part. On the second day of the flight over the Pacific Ocean they took advantage from the windy conditions of the typhoon Marge to obtain a “slingshot effect” from tailwinds. To overcome thunderstorm in Africa the pilots flew as high as 6,248 meters. Over the Atlantic Ocean near brazil the Voyager turn on a 90-degree bank but over the Caribbean there were no incidents.

Voyager. Source: burtrutan.com

Some of the things to consider on this endurance flight are the great capacity of the aircraft and the pilots as well, they have mechanical challenge during the route they overcame, and faced all weather conditions. In addition, the navigation and communication capacity where logistics and well coordination are key. The voyager landed on the same runway having flown during 9 days, on 23 December, three minutes and 44 seconds in the air, the aircraft had less than two hours of fuel remaining, about 1.5% of the fuel the airplane had at take-off. A completely amazing feat.

References:

https://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/Features/rutan_recalls.html

https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/rutan-voyager/nasm_A19880548000

Cover photo:

Voyager, flown by his brother Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, endured to become the first aircraft to circle the globe (in nine days) without refueling/ lookingupwayup.com