The Voyager aircraft, designed by Burt Rutan, was the first to make a non-stop, unrefueled flight around the world, in December 1986.
Photograph courtesy Dick Rutan and NASA

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  • On December 23, 1986, the experimental aircraft Voyager completed the first nonstop flight around the world. Flown by American aviators Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the plane traveled 40,212 kilometers (24,987 miles) over nine days. In order to successfully circumnavigate the globe, the plane had to be as light as possible and carry as much fuel as possible. Rutan’s brother Burt, an aircraft designer, and a team of volunteers constructed the Voyager primarily with fiberglass and carbon fiber material. It was outfitted with 17 fuel tanks, and weighed 4,297 kilograms (9,695 pounds) fully loaded.

    Rutan and Yeager’s feat has only been accomplished one other time, by American adventurer Steve Fossett in 2006. Fossett’s aircraft, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, was also designed by Burt Rutan.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    accomplish Verb

    to succeed or complete a goal.

    aircraft Noun

    vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.

    circumnavigate Verb

    to go completely around something (usually the Earth).

    construct Verb

    to build or erect.

    feat Noun

    accomplishment or achievement.

    fiberglass Noun

    material made from fine strands of glass that are woven into fabric.

    fuel Noun

    material that provides power or energy.

    primarily Adverb

    first or most important.