Breaking records or excelling in physical competition are feats of endurance, training, and skill. Jeana Yeager and Patty Wagstaff’s stories exemplify this, as they soared above the competition.  

Jeana Yeager

On December 14, 1986 Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan took off from Edwards Air Force Base to break one of aviation's last records: to fly around the world non-stop and non-refueled. The round-the-world flight of Voyager lasted nine days, three minutes, and forty-four seconds, finishing back at Edwards on December 23, 1986. Jeana participated in the building of the aircraft, and she piloted Voyager  for many hours during the multi-record flight. Prior to the flight, Yeager worked in engineering design and set women's records in Rutan aircraft. 

The Rutan Voyager hanging above the Museum's welcome desk. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

For the Voyager flight, she received extensive over-water navigation and communications training. Throughout the flight, the physical and mental capabilities of the pilots were continually tested by mechanical and severe weather problems, as well as cramped quarters (the cockpit being roughly the size of phone booth). However, both pilots were in remarkably good condition at the end of the flight. Since then, Yeager has traveled around the world for aviation education presentations and speaking engagements. Yeager and Rutan earned the Collier Trophy, aviation's highest award, for their flight in Voyager

Patty Wagstaff

In 1991, Patty Wagstaff became the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, a title she then defended in 1992 and 1993.  

In 1991, Patty Wagstaff became the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion. (National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, NASM-94-9327)

Wagstaff was raised in Japan and worked as a model and a shipwreck diver in Australia before moving to Alaska in 1978. There she began flight instruction in a Cessna 185 on floats and earned her private pilot license in 1979. Wagstaff moved on quickly to earn her commercial and instrument ratings for single and multi-engine aircraft and seaplanes.  

She entered her first aerobatic competition in 1984 and moved to the Unlimited category (most proficient) in only two years. Wagstaff was a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team, which competes in world competition every two years, until her retirement from competition in 1996.  

Wagstaff is a premier aerobatic pilot in air shows throughout the United States, performing dynamic and precise routines in her Extra 300L. She is also a commercially rated helicopter pilot, a flight instructor for unlimited aerobatics, and she flies for motion pictures and television.  

Wagstaff is a four-time winner of the Betty Skelton First Lady of Aerobatics Trophy and was the 1995 recipient of the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement in Aviation. She is the author, with Ann Cooper, of her autobiography, Fire and Air: A Life on the Edge. In 2004, Wagstaff was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. 

This content was migrated from an earlier online exhibit, Women in Aviation and Space History, which shared the stories of the women featured in the Museum in the early 2000s. 

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