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Fatigue Affects Crew as Plane Continues on Test of Endurance

July 13, 1986|Associated Press

MOJAVE — The crew of the aircraft Voyager fought fatigue and head winds Saturday as they passed the two-day mark in a planned 4 1/2-day flight to test the craft's airworthiness for a nonstop unrefueled flight around the world.

The two-engine lightweight aircraft took off at 2:52 p.m. Thursday and began flying up and down the California coast. Its longest previous test was 24 hours.

Co-pilot Jeana Yeager took the controls Saturday morning after sleeping in the cramped cockpit while pilot Dick Rutan flew the craft overnight.

Needs More Sleep

Voyager spokesman Pete Riva said Rutan battled fatigue during the night as he flew the plane. "I feel really good, but know I'll need sleep for tonight. I would not like to spend another night feeling tired," Riva quoted Rutan as saying.

The Voyager was flying generally at 10,000 feet, above a layer of marine clouds over the coast. Head winds added 10 minutes to the Voyager's northward trek, but the same winds helped the craft when it turned south, Riva said.

The aircraft's rear engine was being throttled back as the amount of fuel decreased, giving the engine a 28-m.p.g. average on Saturday. "As the flight progresses, this should improve significantly" said Riva, who was at the flight control center at Mojave Airport, 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

The Voyager's first attempt at a 4 1/2-day flight ended seven hours after takeoff from Mojave Airport on Wednesday. A problem with the rear engine forced the plane to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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