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Rutan Voyager


The configuration selected was a twin engine pusher-tractor tandem wing vehicle with twin booms connecting the tip of the forward wing through the center wing terminating at the vertical fin. The cabin was only large enough to accommodate the crew of two and provisions for the estimated 9 day flight.

Structural sample testing was conducted as the first step in the program to determine the lightest materials and fabrication processes available appropriate to the vehicle requirements. It was determined that .010-inch graphite tape skins, with 1/4-inch Nomex honeycomb core would provide adequate structure, and, with suitable application of film adhesive, would also be an adequate fuel barrier. The spars were made from graphite tape and Nomex cores, and were autoclave-cured by an outside vendor.

The result was an airplane with a structural weight/gross weight fraction of only 9%; significantly lower than any existing man-rated airplane. This was key to the Voyager's success, because the amount of fuel carried, in relation to the vehicle's takeoff weight, had the strongest influence on range.

Making its first public debut, at the Oshkosh Fly-in on 29 July 1984, was Rutan’s Voyager. The previously-secret aircraft has been under development for more than three years in the Rutan Aircraft Factory in Mojave, California. The Voyager was designed by aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan, 40, for one special mission: very long range flight. "When we started the analysis, the numbers showed that it might be possible to fly completely around the world non-stop. No one has ever tried it before," Rutan said, "so that became our goal."

Carbon fibre and Kevlar comprise the major part of Voyager’s structure, allowing a wing span of 110.8 feet with an aspect ratio of 33.8. The spars are made from solid, oven-cured, carbon graphite, while the skins are thin carbon fibre sheets over a nomex paper honeycomb core, with no metal anywhere in the basic structure other than fasteners.

The engines are mounted in tandem, one on each end of the fuselage. It is now planned that the front engine will be shutdown and its propeller feathered after enough fuel has burned off to allow the rear engine to sustain flight. Mounted between the canard and main wing are three streamlined bodies: the fuselage (33 feet in length) and two outrigger tanks for fuel.

The structural weight of the Voyager is only 938 pounds yet the take-off weight for the global flight will be 11,236 lbs, more than six times its empty weight of 1,858 lbs. Sixteen separate fuel tanks scattered among the wings, canard, booms and fuselage, contain 1,489 United States gallons of fuel weighing 8,934 lbs, leaving just 534 lbs for the crew of two and support equipment. The final landing weight of the aircraft is expected to be only 2,300 pounds. The pilot sits within a bubble canopy above and to the right of the cabin, which contains a stretcher and an area of relative privacy for the off-duty crew member. Comfort is important, as pilots Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan expect to spend two weeks on their 25,000 mile flight. Their intended flight path will take them across southern United States, in a curve parallel with the northern coast of Brazil, of f the tip of South Africa, across the southern Indian Ocean and north again over Australia and the Pacific and back to California. Keeping to the oceans will eliminate any political problems associated with over flying potentially hostile countries, and Australia can be relied on to be friendly.

The aircraft's fuel capacity is 1489 gallons, carried in 17 tanks and metered by only one gauge; the crew will use one seat and one bed during the thirteen day flight, flown at between 12 and 15,000 feet on a cruise of around 110 knots; only 3.2 lbs of paint were used on the exterior; there is only one brake, on the nosewheel, and only one rudder, on the left hand fin. July 1984 the Voyager flew 11,593 miles (almost half way around the world) over a closed circuit course along the Californian coast during a test run.

Dick Rutan made his-tory in 1986 when he and copilot Jeana Yeager made the first non-stop, non-re-fuelled flight around the world. Their air-craft Voyager was designed by Dick’s brother, Burt. Dick and Jeana took off with 1490 gallons of fuel on board and returned home after flying 26,680 miles non-stop with 18 gallons to spare. The flight took 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

Rutan Voyager

Length: 32.48 ft / 9.9 m
Height: 10.171 ft / 3.1 m
Wingspan: 110.892 ft / 33.8 m
Wing area: 362.747 sq.ft / 33.7 sq.m
Aspect ratio: 33.8
Max take off weight: 9695.4 lb / 4397.0 kg
Weight empty: 2683.5 lb / 1217.0 kg
Max. weight carried: 7011.9 lb / 3180.0 kg
Max. speed: 130 kts / 240 km/h
Landing speed: 70 kts / 130 km/h
Cruising speed: 86 kts / 160 km/h
Service ceiling: 16404 ft / 5000 m
Wing loading: 26.65 lb/sq.ft / 130.0 kg/sq.m
Range: 23719 nm / 43928 km
Engine: Continental IOL-200, 81 hp
Crew: 2


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