30 years ago today, The Voyager landed after 9 days, becoming the first airplane to fly non-stop around the world without refueling—setting a world record that remains unchallenged today. It was envisioned and sketched on the back of a napkin by brothers Dick and Burt Rutan, of the Rutan Aircraft Factory, and Dick’s girlfriend Jeana Yeager at lunch in 1981. With a cockpit the size of a bathtub, Dick and Jeana piloted the aircraft at an average altitude of 11,000 feet, peeing in a bag along the way… (1986)
Essentially a flying fuel tank, the lightweight aircraft was built in the Mojave dessert over five years, mainly by a group of volunteers, and narrowly achieved lift-off from Edwards Air Force base’s longest runway. “I didn’t think they’d make it,” recalled Burt who followed in a chase plane for a time.
The 25,000-mile circumnavigation of the globe set one of aviation’s last milestones in nine days, three minutes and 44 seconds—and Burt was among tens of thousands of cheering spectators awaiting their arrival back at Edwards.
MORE Good News on This Day in History:
- The transistor was first demonstrated (1947)
- The first human kidney transplant was performed (1954)
- 82 crew members of the U.S. Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after capture (1968)
- 14 survivors of the charter flight that crashed, known as Miracle in the Andes, found help after two months in the freezing cold and snow (1972)
On this date 193 years ago, the poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore was first published anonymously with the title, ‘Visit From St. Nicholas,’ in the Troy, New York Sentinel. Arguably the best-known poem ever written by an American, it is largely responsible for modern Santa Claus lore from the mid-19th century, onward. (1823)