|Spouse(s)||Jon A. Farrar (1971–1976)|
William Z. Williams (1992–1994)
Dale A. Rinehart (1994–1996)
|Awards||Presidential Citizens Medal|
FAI De la Vaulx Medal
Edward Longstreth Medal
|Famous flights||The first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world with Dick Rutan|
Jeana Lee Yeager (born May 18, 1952) is an American aviator. She co-piloted, along with Dick Rutan, the first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world in the Rutan Voyager aircraft from December 14 to 23, 1986. The flight took 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds and covered 24,986 miles (40,211 km), more than doubling the old distance record set by a Boeing B-52 strategic bomber in 1962.
Early life and career
Jeana Lee Yeager was born on May 18, 1952, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Royal Lee Yeager (March 12, 1918 - March 17, 2001) and Mary Frances Yeager (née Dewberry) (March 17, 1920 – November 13, 2017). As a child, she and her family variously lived in Garland, Texas, Oxnard, California, and Commerce, Texas. Following graduation from high school, Yeager, at age 19, married a police officer; they divorced five years later. She then worked as a draftsman and surveyor for a geothermal energy company in Santa Rosa, California. In 1978, Yeager obtained her private pilot's license while still living in Santa Rosa.
Yeager worked for Robert Truax while he was developing a reusable spacecraft. She met Dick Rutan in 1980 and they soon both set distance records in the Rutan VariEze and Long-EZ planes, designed by Dick's brother Burt Rutan. In early 1982, Yeager set a new women's speed record for the 2,000-kilometer closed course and in the fall of 1984 using the VariEze, she set the open-distance record of 2,427.1 statute miles.
Yeager and Dick Rutan decided to attempt to fly around the world without refueling. They formed Voyager Aircraft, Inc., and Burt Rutan began designing the aircraft. Initially unable to find a commercial sponsor, Yeager started the Voyager Impressive People (VIP) program which became the major source of money to build, test, and fly the aircraft. By mid-1986, Voyager was ready for the flight. Yeager flew as co-pilot on the 216-hour flight and set a world absolute distance record. This was the first time a woman had been listed in an absolute category.
Dick Rutan and Voyager sued Yeager in 1995, alleging that she had misappropriated memorabilia and funds from Voyager. The lawsuit was dropped in 1996.
In recognition of the 1986 Voyager flight, Yeager received both the Harmon and National Air and Space Museum trophies, the FAI De la Vaulx Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Ronald Reagan and the Collier Trophy (becoming its first female recipient). She shared the Presidential Citizens Medal and Collier Trophy with Dick and Burt Rutan. She was also awarded the Edward Longstreth Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1988. In 2013, Flying magazine ranked Yeager (with Dick Rutan) No. 33 on their list of the 51 Heroes of Aviation.
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- "Jeana Yeager Was Not Just Along for the Ride". Los Angeles Times. December 24, 1986. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
- "Gathering of Eagles Foundation : Yeager, Jeana L." Gathering of Eagles Foundation. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
- "Records - World Air Sports Federation". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
- "Women in Aviation and Space History - Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum". airandspace.si.edu. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
- "Jeanna Yeager". Franklin Institute. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
- "51 Heroes of Aviation". Flying Magazine. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
- Yeager, Jeana; Patton, Phil; Dick, Rutan (February 1989). Voyager. HarperCollins. p. 416. ISBN 0060971975.
- Baldwin, Louis (1996). Women of strength : biographies of 106 who have excelled in traditionally male fields, A.D. 61 to the present. Jefferson, NC [u.a.]: McFarland. p. 254. ISBN 0786402504.