I took this picture of Dad while he was standing in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum looking up at the airplane he flew on his "impossible" flight around the world, non-stop, non-refuel. Dad does two things when he visits Washington DC. He visits lost friends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and then he visits his airplane at the Air and Space Museum. It is a ritual he performs every visit without fail. Just before this picture was taken he said, "they can take everything away from me except for the fact that I build this airplane and flew it around the world." Do you have a dream? What are you waiting for?
Travel Tip: When in the Air and Space Museum take time to look at the people and not just the airplanes. There just might be a legend standing right next to you.
Families have different ways of preserving their history. Some have keepsake boxes filled with trinkets and others create quilts that tell the story of their family. I come from a very unique family and we preserve our family memories in a slightly unusual way. We have a family quilt but it is in the form of an air show jacket. It belonged to my Grandmother, Irene Rutan, and if you attended the Oshkosh Air Show between 1970s thru 1990s you probably knew her. You could find her running up and down the air show grounds taking care of business but I think she is best remembered for counting all the Rutan homebuilt airplanes that made the journey to Oshkosh. Each year she announced the growing number of homebuilts with tremendous pride. It must have been a thrill to watch her son's ideas and dreams take flight. She not only supported her sons in every crazy idea brought to her she supported me. Grandma Rutan made it her job to take me to Oshkosh every year from the time I was a cute little kid up through my rebellious teenage years. She made sure I had a front row seat to witness history even though at times I'm sure I drove her crazy. Grandma's persistence in keeping me involved gave me my deep love for aviation. When Grandma passed away, at the age of 84, she left me her treasured air show jacket. It is covered with patches from the many events she was involved with during those magical weeks of the "world's greatest air show." Those patches also take a journey through the memories that made my family what it is today. Much like a traditional quilt it tells the story of the Rutan family.
Sewn into the collar of the jacket is a handmade label written in pen with the words "this jacket belongs to Irene Rutan" followed by her address. One pocket contains more patches that were never sewn on but are kept safely in the pocket secured with a safety pen. With those personal touches I feel in a small way when the jacket is near so is my Grandmother. I wear it in most of my photos as a way to thank her for all her support. There are more stories about and written by Grandma Rutan in my book "Oshkosh Memories."
For many the historic take-off roll of the Voyager is remembered as the start of an exciting attempt to break a world's record but for me it was the day my life changed forever. On December 14, 1986, my father, Dick Rutan, climbed into his home-build airplane to do something few had thought possible, to fly around the world non-stop, non-refueled. Nine days later when he climbed out of that same airplane his name went in the record books and I suddenly had a famous father. The years that followed gave me the opportunity to meet many new fascinating people. I've had the opportunity to meet everyone from politicians to beauty queens. The crazy thing is people I think wouldn't have a clue who my father is are the most thrilled and the people who I think are going to get a kick out of the news look at me with the most puzzled look on their faces. Whichever response I receive I'm always very proud to be Dick Rutan's daughter. He had a dream and he made it a reality. Very few people have ever flown around the world, even fewer still that did it without stopping, and the same is true for people going after their dreams. What if he never went? What if he decided the crazy idea he came up with of building a one-of-a-kind aircraft to do the impossible was just too hard to conceive. Then add the fact that there was no money and no support team, just an idea drawn out on a paper napkin in a small restaurant in Mojave, California. I know that my life would be much different. Someone once asked would you rather have your children say you always talked about it or would you have them say you accomplished your dreams? When Dad released the break, pushed up power, and headed down the runway that cold December morning he reached for the "impossible" and in doing so he changed my life.