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The San Diego Air & Space Museum Remembers International Air & Space Hall of Fame Member Dick Rutan

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is remembering Dick Rutan, whose distinguished aviation career as a decorated Vietnam Was combat pilot, aerobatic pilot and aviation record setter earned him an honored spot the prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame. Rutan passed away on May 3, 2024, at the age of 85.

Since 1963, the International Air & Space Hall of Fame has honored the world’s most significant pilots, crew members, visionaries, inventors, aerospace engineers, business leaders, preservationists, designers and space explorers. Rutan entered the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2011.

Dick Rutan’s lifelong passion for aviation, from earning his pilot’s license on his 16th birthday – the same day he earned his driver’s license – to a decorated career as a Vietnam War combat pilot, and his expertise as an aerobatic pilot and aviation record setter, truly set him apart as an aviator and as a person,” said Jim Kidrick, President & CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “Dick’s truly pioneering spirit exemplified the love of aviation he shared with so many members of the prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame. We are proud to forever honor him at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.”

A distinguished combat pilot, aerobatic pilot and aviation record setter, Dick Rutan was born in Loma Linda, California, where he gained an early interest in flight. On his 16th birthday, Rutan earned both his driver’s and pilot’s licenses.

Rutan began a military career at age 19, joining the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program, later receiving an Air Force commission. He served during the Vietnam War with the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, completing 325 combat missions. He was awarded the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals, and a Purple Heart.

Following military service, Dick formed Rutan Aircraft Factory (later known as Scaled Composites) with his brother Burt Rutan, an advanced development aircraft company. While at Rutan Aircraft, Dick and Burt Rutan conceived the concept of creating an aircraft that could fly nonstop around the world. In early 1981, Rutan founded Voyager Aircraft Inc., and then prepared to undertake the first around the world, non-stop, non-refueled flight. On the morning of December 14, 1986, a fuel-laden Voyager took off on the history-making flight. Rutan and copilot Jeana Yeager struggled throughout the flight with weather, stress, and the continuing demand for fuel, and, further compounding their daunting challenges, they were denied access to airspace above Libya. Finally, after 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds of flight, they touched down on December 23 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with only a few gallons of fuel remaining. The 24,986-mile (40,211 km) trip easily broke the then-current flight distance record of 12,532 miles.

Rutan and Yeager received many awards for their accomplishment. Rutan has set other distance world records in his LongEze, and, in December 2005, in the EZ-Rocket, set a record for the longest distance flown 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,” it is recognized by the National Aeronautics Association.

The International Air & Space Hall of Fame is the most prestigious induction of its kind in the world and is composed of hundreds of air and space pioneers, engineers, inventors and innovators, along with adventurers, scientists and industry leaders. NASA Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts and Russian cosmonauts are honored in the Hall, as well as famous legends such as the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart. Notable inductees also include Buzz Aldrin, Igor Sikorsky, Wernher von Braun, Jack Northrop, Jackie Cochran, William Boeing, Sr., Reuben H. Fleet, Glenn Curtiss, Walter Zable Sr., Fran Bera, Wally Schirra, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, T. Claude Ryan, Jimmy Doolittle, Bob Hoover, Ellen Ochoa, Peggy Whitson, Linden Blue, Patty Wagstaff, and many more.

For more information, see the following link: http://sandiegoairandspace.org/exhibits/online-exhibit-page/international-air-space-hall-of-fame.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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