Voyager Pilot, Adventurer and Aviation Pioneer
As a Tactical Air Command fighter pilot during most of his two decades in the Air Force, Dick Rutan flew 325 combat missions in Vietnam, 105 of them as a member of a high-risk classified operation commonly known as the “MISTY’s.” While on his last strike reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam in September of 1968, his aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire, and he was forced to eject from his burning F-100. Rutan evaded enemy capture and was later rescued by the Air Force’s “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter team. After retirement, Dick and his brother Burt formed Rutan Aircraft Factory, where Dick flew the test flight development programs of many military and civilian experimental aircraft and set numerous world speed and distance records.
In the early 80s, he founded Voyager Aircraft, Inc. and on the morning of December 14, 1986, Voyager took off, landing nine days, three minutes and forty four seconds later at Edwards Air Force Base in California, successfully completing the six-year quest. The Voyager is now proudly suspended in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s “Milestones of Flight” gallery in Washington, D.C. Dick Rutan is also proud to be a governing member of the emerging space tourism industry. He formed an enterprise called Voyager Aerospace Corporation and has several projects emerging with this company – two of them are unique aircraft. Since Voyager’s world flight, Dick Rutan has been traveling the world, speaking to audiences and sharing his tales of the magnificent Voyager project and of his other adventures. The Voyager story is one of tremendous courage, vision and adventure and is often referred to as “aviation’s last first.”
Voyager Aircraft‟s non-stop and un-refueled flight around the world in December of 1986 placed Mojave proudly on the map and placed Dick Rutan in the history books. In December of 2005, Mr. Rutan set another world record. This record was set in the EZ- Rocket for the longest distance in a ground launched rocket powered aircraft. He flew from the Mojave Spaceport to the California City Airport. Touted as the “shortest long distance flight,” this record is recognized by the National Aeronautics Association (NAA), and is in the record books. On board that flight, he carried mail to be delivered to California City, as well as American flag patches and flight covers that would be sold to raise money for The Dick Rutan Scholarship Fund, a fund that awards multiple scholarships each year. In April of 2006, he was awarded the NAA “Most Memorable Flight of 2005” award in Washington, DC for the flight from the Mojave Spaceport to the California City Airport. Also, for that record setting flight, he was awarded the Louis Bleriot Medal in November of 2006. This prestigious medal was established in 1936 in memory of Louis Bleriot, a great aviation pioneer.
In 2003, Dick Rutan was elected as a director of the East Kern Airport District (EKAD). With the launches and successes of Burt Rutan‟s (Dick‟s brother) SpaceShipOne, the EKAD has attained status of Spaceport as well. He is proud to be a governing member of this newly emerging space tourism industry. In June of that year, he became an Eagle at the Gathering of Eagles in Montgomery, Alabama. This prestigious honor was his in 1988, two years after the Voyager flight, and they brought him back for a second induction to honor his service in the Air Force. He will join the ranks with aviation and space greats including Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, and other flyers that include Pappy Boyington, Joe Engle, and many others.
Hall of Fame
In July of 2002, Mr. Rutan was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. This esteemed enshrinement honored him and three other Americans “whose heroism helped define 20th Century America.”
In 2001, Dick Rutan became the chief test pilot for XCOR and has been flying the first-ever rocket powered experimental Long EZ (pronounced Long Easy). Named the EZRocket, this air vehicle has not only set a world record, but the proof of concept is also setting the future for rocket travel and the intensifying sport of rocket powered aircraft racing.
Dick’s wife, Kris, is a kindergarten teacher. Together, they have four daughters and nine grandchildren.
Around and Out of This World
Dick remembers his very first aviation adventure vividly. He was six-years-old when he and his mother went to an old farm field for a true barnstorming ride. Mom Rutan was armed with a fist full of hard-earned dollar bills. The duo climbed into the old plane and Dick begged his mother to allow him to stand so he could see out of the window. The little plane hopped and skipped down an old bumpy dirt road and suddenly was airborne. As Dick saw the earth beneath him, his view of how he wanted to see the world was changed forever. Dick's narration about his career in the Air Force, Voyager's flight around the world, a second world flight in a homebuilt, record setting in a rocket powered airplane, being stranded on the North Pole, and many other adventures will keep your audience on the edge of their seats!
Dream, Believe, Accomplish
Dick shares his experience with believing in one's self and one's team. His view of setting goals and sub goals and reaching toward the impossible are irresistible messages for everyone — from youth to executive, from laborer to professional, his message will spark the creative genius within! Your audience will be empowered to begin their own journey of setting and reaching goals they never believed possible. A master story-teller, Dick Rutan's recall of his many dramatic adventures will prove that, "You are limited only by what you can dream."
An Arctic Adventure
In May of 2000, Dick Rutan was a last minute addition to a sightseeing airplane trek to the North Pole. The biplane, a Russian AN-2 Antonov, landed beautifully on the glass-like ice, but within seconds, the joyride was headed for disaster. Unseasonably thin, the ice quickly began to stress and crack under the weight of the plane. A quick power-up to 'go-around' and locate a thicker spot on the ice resulted in the aircraft suddenly dipping nose first through the ice, sinking toward the freezing ocean, and certain death. The wings of the AN-2 suspended the aircraft so the crew could retrieve their survival equipment that was packed in the rear of the sinking plane. For more than a dozen hours, the crew was stranded at the top of the world. In the distance, they heard a faint engine and soon would see the Twin Otter from First Air that would rescue them and return them to their families. Learn and laugh at Dick's disappointment that the rescue came so soon!