Pilot, pioneer, record-setter
In 1986, Yeager and Dick Rutan piloted the first nonstop, non-refueled flight around the world. The 9-day, 24,986-mile circumnavigation in the Rutan Voyager more than doubled the previous non-refueled distance record set by a B-52 in 1962. The Fort Worth, TX native established several flying records before Voyager. Yeager, who is unrelated to military pilot Chuck, studied drafting in high school, then earned her pilot’s license at 26. She met Burt and Dick Rutan at a 1980 air show. In 1982, Yeager set a new women's 2,000 KM closed-course speed record and, in 1984, set the open-distance record of 2,427.1 statute miles, both in Rutan craft. When she and the Rutans decided to make their fateful trip, Yeager named Voyager and helped raise much of the funding. She also drafted the plane’s engineering drawings. As a result of their record-breaking flight, Yeager received the Harmon Trophy, FAI De la Vaulx Medal and a Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan. She also became the first woman to receive the prestigious Collier Trophy.