Twilight of the Adventurers
They’ve flown around the world, dove to the greatest depths, and hiked to the ends of the earth. In a windowless building on the edge of LA’s Chinatown, explorers from another era relive their glories over meatloaf and apple pie.
Photos by Kendal Carson
In 1986, Dick Rutan flew with a co-pilot in a Rutan Model 76 Voyager, a custom-designed and built aircraft, covering 26,000 air miles and taking nine days to circumnavigate the globe — unrefueled, non-stop.
After taking off from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, the plane headed west, making two passes over the Equator, avoiding a 600-mile-wide typhoon, and doubling back over inhospitable Libyan airspace. Rutan piloted the plane without a break for the first three days of the nine-day flight. When the plane finally landed it had a damaged wing and 1.5 percent of the fuel with which it originally departed.
Rutan’s Voyager aircraft now hangs in the Smithsonian, part of an exhibit celebrating human accomplishments in flight. Once in a great while, the tanned seventy-six-year-old will share his story, but only for those select members of The Adventurers’ Club of Los Angeles. The by-laws of the club, which caps membership at 200, make it very clear that on…
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