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Lt. Colonel Dick Rutan, USAF (Ret.)
Founding Test Pilot
XCOR is proud to have Lt. Colonel Dick Rutan, USAF, ret., as our pioneer test pilot. He is a world-renowned aviator, remarkable adventurer, Vietnam War hero and accomplished lecturer.
Dick flew the first generation rocket-powered aircraft, EZ-Rocket, 17 times, most notably on its first flights, in front of live network television cameras, in front of the crowds at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, in other public demonstrations in Mojave. He also piloted the EZ-Rocket on its record-breaking long distance flight from Mojave to California City.
Dick is perhaps most famous for flying the Voyager aircraft around the world non-stop and unrefueled with Jeana Yeager in 1986 in a plane designed by his brother, Burt Rutan. Dick Rutan and Yeager broke the existing flight distance record of 12,532 miles (20,168 kilometers) in nine days, three minutes, and forty-four seconds. They took off and landed at Edwards Air Force Base, which is 13 miles down the road from Mojave. Dick calls the Voyager story "one of tremendous courage, of vision, and of adventure;" it is often referred to as "aviation's last first." Four days following this world record-breaking flight, he was awarded the Presidential Citizen's Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan at a special White House ceremony. The Voyager is now ceremoniously suspended in the National Air and Space Museum's "Milestones of Flight" gallery in Washington, DC.
On his 16th birthday Dick received both his solo pilot license and his driver license giving him free reign to explore the air and roadways.
At 19 Dick joined the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program where he was given the commission of Lieutenant. During the Vietnam War he served as a Tactical Air Command pilot, flying 325 combat missions over Vietnam with 105 of them as a member of the high-risk classified operation known as the MISTY's. During his last reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam in September 1968 Dick’s plane was hit by enemy ground fire, and he had to eject. Luckily, he evaded capture and was rescued by the Air Force's "Jolly Green Giant" helicopter team. By the time he retired from the Air Force in 1978, Lt. Col. Rutan had been given the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals and the Purple Heart.
XCOR test pilots Richard Searfoss and Dick Rutan before an EZ-Rocket Flight