We’ve mentioned Jeana Yeager before in our Rutan Voyager Plane of the Week feature, but we’re thrilled to be bringing her back in this Pilot Profile!
Known as the first women to fly a plane nonstop around the world without refueling, Jeana is truly an inspiration.
Born on May 18, 1952, Jeana moved around with her family and lived in Fort Worth, TX; Garland, TX; Oxnard, CA; and Commerce, TX. She is not related to pilot Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound. Growing up, she was interested in horseback riding, track running, and helicopters.
Jeana earned her pilot’s license in 1978 while working as a draftsman, a skill she studied in high school, and surveyor with a geothermal energy company in CA. Then, she began working in drafting for Robert Truax while he was developing a reusable spacecraft. In 1980 she set distance records with Dick Rutan in the Rutan VariEze and Long-EZ. The two had met at an airshow earlier that year.
Two years later, she set a new women’s speed record for the 2,000-kilometer closed course and then another in 1984 for the open-distance record of 2,427.1 statute miles.
From the beginning, Jeana was destined for success. She was driven, hard-working, and passionate.
Jeana is most known for her historic flight around the world with Dick Rutan. What makes this flight so significant is that they were the first to attempt the journey without refueling. Together, they created Voyager Aircraft, Inc.
The previous distance record was set by a B-52 bomber, which flew 12,500 miles in the early ‘60s. Rutan believed that they could build a lighter aircraft that would enable them to fly twice that distance, which happened to be the distance it took to fly around the world.
However, they hit some snags in the beginning with funding. They could not receive any assistance from the government. They started the Voyager project, a name Yeager gave it, for this trip and didn’t begin seeing any money until they began their own fundraising efforts.
Yeager drafted the plane’s engineering and managed the business operation. Turning down funding from both a tobacco company and a Japanese company, the team was able to successfully see the project through to the day of the flight. After five years of work, they were ready to fly their plane.
You can learn more about the Rutan Voyager here!
More than 1,200 gallons of fuel was loaded into the plane for their flight. They took off from Edwards Air Force base in CA on December 14, 1986. They traveled on average nearly 116 mph and their flight took a total of 116 hours—just over 9 days.
Yeager was just 34 years old when at the time and had undergone extensive training to ensure that they communicated and navigated the ocean without a problem. They faced storms, the rear engine quit towards the end of the flight, and more, but they did it!
If ever there was a story that you could accomplish anything you set your mind to, this is it.