Dick Rutan, a pilot, entrepreneur and adventurer who made history in December 1986, after completing a nine-day, nonstop and nonrefueled flight around the world that established a flight-endurance record, will be the keynote speaker during the official opening at the 56th annual Aircraft Electronics Association International Convention & Trade Show.
In early 1981, Rutan founded Voyager Aircraft Inc. and prepared to complete the first around-the-world, nonstop, nonrefueled flight. On the morning of Dec. 14, 1986, a fuel-laden Voyager, with Rutan and Jeana Yeager onboard, took off on the history-making flight. Nine days, three minutes and 44 seconds later, Rutan set the storm-battered Voyager down at Edwards Air Force Base in California, successfully completing the six-year quest. Four days later, President Ronald Reagan awarded Rutan the Presidential Citizen's Medal of Honor at a special ceremony. To this day, no aircraft has flown more air miles than the Voyager's 26,358 statute miles.
The Voyager is now suspended in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight gallery in Washington, D.C., and Rutan was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, in July 2002.
In December 2005, Rutan set another world record in the EZ-Rocket for the longest distance in a ground-launched rocket-powered aircraft, flying from the Mojave Air and Space Port to the California City Airport. Touted as the "shortest long-distance flight," this record is recognized by the National Aeronautic Association. In April 2006, he was awarded the NAA's Most Memorable Flight of 2005 Award in Washington, D.C., after establishing another world record.
As a Tactical Air Command fighter pilot during most of his two decades in the Air Force, Rutan flew 325 combat missions in Vietnam, 105 of them as a member of a high-risk, classified operation commonly known as the MISTYs. Before retiring from the Air Force in 1978, Lt. Col. Rutan was awarded the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals and the Purple Heart.