Dick Rutan Dies At 85


Legendary pilot, educator and adventurer Dick Rutan died Friday, according to a press release issued on behalf of the family. (Full text follows). He was 85. Rutan, best known for the record-setting nonstop unrefueled circumnavigation he and Jeana Yeager accomplished in 1986, was surrounded by family when he died in Kootenai Hospital in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, in the early evening from complications resulting from a yearlong bout with long COVID, according to family friends.

“He spent his last day in the company of friends and family, including his brother, Burt, and passed away peacefully at Kootenai Health Hospital in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in the company of his loving wife of 25 years, Kris Rutan,” said the release. “He is survived by daughters Holly Hogan and Jill Hoffman, and his four grandchildren, Jack, Sean, Noelle, and Haley.” Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said Rutan was a major contributor to the organization and aviation as a whole. “Dick Rutan is closely linked with EAA history for the past half-century,” Pelton said. “Whether it was the flights of canard aircraft to Oshkosh back in the 1970s, the unforgettable Voyager project and mission in the 1980s, or his trips to AirVenture for forum presentations almost every year, Dick Rutan was a true friend of EAA and AirVenture. We will miss him and remember him, and our condolences go to his family at this time.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. I am saddened to hear of Dick Rutan’s passing. I had the pleasure of meeting him during a particularly hot summer day at the Thermal (Jackie Cochran) Airport, just after he landed in what could only be described as a ‘rickety’ Cessna 150 in 120-degree weather while looking for a place to tiedown. My hangar faced an available tiedown and I guided him to it. His friendliness and the lively spirit he kept, even under the intense sun, impressed me. It made my day. My deepest condolences to family and friends.

  2. hi all,
    Rip lt. col dick rutan.

    Thanks for all the memories. i was in the EAA eagle hangar during airventure for the
    Lifetime dinner event years ago. Right behind in line was no other than dick rutan, we struk up a good conversation,
    and he sat at our table. An incredible nite, as were many other lifetime dinners at eaa,
    an extrodinary chance to meet many lumenaries of aviation.

    Raf – do you still have a hangar at thermal?

    Burt Rutan will be at airventure 2024
    His first talk not to miss
    Theater in the woods
    Monday july22
    ‘The universe and everything else’
    By burt rutan.

    Condolences to to Rutan family.


    • No hangar at Thermal anymore, Michael. Gracefully stepped away from the cockpit, trading runway lights for porch lights.

  3. Well darn it. He will be missed. He made general aviation exciting.
    I assume that the French air force will also mourn his loss.

  4. As one of the volunteers who helped him with the Voyager in 1985/86… this is devastating news. I believe this guy had aviation 15W-50 running in his veins … along with his brother. I consider Voyager one of the three major aviation events in my long aviation career. Lets not forget that he flew 325 missions in Viet Nam, as well, during his USAF career prior to his civil endeavors.

    RIP, Dick.

    • For any of you that’d like to see what may have been his last long recorded interview on Social Flight:

      (1+30 long)

      • Larry, thanks for the video. Great interview, getting the “The Next Five Minutes”.

  5. Wow… a dreamer from a generation that will never be repeated. He took dreams and made them a reality in a way that was magical. It is sad in a way. My grandchildren will never know this kind of pioneer. I’m glad I was around to see it and experience it in real time. A true grit aviation pioneer all the way.

  6. One of my favorite stories in Sport Aviation magazine, years ago was when Dick and Mike Melville flew their Long EZ’s to South Africa and then went on around the world. Real adventuresome reading.

  7. I met Dick Rutan at Osh Airventure 2021 or 2022, can’t remember which, but during our interesting 10-minute conversation also learned of his volunteered extreme conservative views and at that time he was wildly anti-COVID vaccine. I didn’t debate it with Dick but sure hope that COVID didn’t get him over some silly political character he followed.

      • Don’t be silly. There are lots of COVID vaccines in the world. There are three vaccine products, with various revisions, approved in the US. And they do vaccine-y things: “COVID-19 vaccines are working well  to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death.” (Source: CDC, “Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination”.) Some of the vaccines under development will probably add sterilising immunity to the list of vaccine-y things they do.

        • By definition, they are not “vaccines”; they neither prevented the contraction nor the spread of the disease. Q.E.D.

          • Hi, Arthur! Wow – once again going to bat on an issue on which you seem to be poorly informed! I do admire your tenacity, if not your grasp on facts! Please do take some time to research what vaccines do, which is to stimulate immune responses in recipients with the intended outcome of reducing or eliminating adverse reactions to the pathogen. Some vaccines are more effective than others, and many studies have shown that the COVID vaccines in particular are highly effective at reducing the degree of symptoms and mortality in those who contract COVID.

            Have a great day!

      • Well, we can say one thing with certainty: Mr. “Foyt” is not an immunologist. He is, however, a troll.

        • “many studies have shown that the COVID vaccines in particular are highly effective at reducing the degree of symptoms and mortality in those who contract COVID.”

          Don’t try and rewrite history. The so-called vaccine was release under emergency authorization; basically bypassing long term studies. It was only after a year that they changed the claim from “vaccine” to “eases the symptoms” and even that is hard to measure. Dick was 100% correct in his rational assessment of this experimental mRNA drug.

          • Hi, Arthur! I hate to keep telling you that you’re wrong, but you are. They’re still called ‘vaccines’, but you don’t have to trust me. Check the website for the CDC or – since I bet you don’t trust the government – the Mayo Clinic. Heck, you can check the website for your local Sam’s Club pharmacy; they call them vaccines, too!

            As for your apparent assertion that a vaccine isn’t a ‘vaccine’ unless it completely prevents disease, you’re wrong there also. Some vaccines do this, but not all. Your annual flu vaccine, for example, isn’t 100% effective, but it does a good job of keeping symptoms milder than in an unvaccinated state.

            And just to pre-empt your next argument, no, the COVID vaccine (nor any other vaccine) is not actually a secret government tracking device developed by George Soros and the Illuminati to give you magnetic nanobots for mind control and election rigging.

            Have a magnificent day!

  8. Sorry to hear. Shared a few breakfast conversations with Dick; he was quite a character. Blue skies & soft winds, Dick!

  9. I had the privilege of meeting Dick a couple of times and he was always happy to spend time talking and and answering my questions.

    I wanted to share my last encounter with Dick as I think it shows how much he cared about
    his fellow pilots and AirVenture at Oshkosh.

    It was back in the mid 80’s that year was really hot. I, my brother, and a friend flew our 172 from Illinois up to OSH and spent a great 3 days there. On our last day (Sunday) we went to get a bus to take us to our plane over just west of Basler’s and when we saw the line for the bus and how tightly packed the buses were in 95 degree heat we decided we were better off walking even with our backpacks. About 5 minutes into our walk allot of the performers were leaving in their cars driving around the inside of the airport fence to exit over by the terminal and avoiding the traffic leaving the airport. I jokingly said to my brother and friend ‘I wish one of those guys would give us a ride. About that time a 2 door Buick Regal went past us and stopped about 25 feet in front of us with allot of people walking on the road and a nice lady rolled down the car window and asked me if we could use I ride, feeling the air conditioning coming out of the car I said that would be great. So we all piled in the back and I didn’t really get to see the driver till I was in the back. Then the driver asked where we were parked and I realized it was Dick Rutan. So I said Dick you probably don’t remember me but I had met you at a couple of your Voyager presentations. Anyway thank-you very much for the ride. He asked about our time at AirVenture and we asked about his week, Then we got to our row where the plane was parked and it was all ruted up from the rains earlier, then I sail I think we are going to have to pull the plane up to the taxiway to avoid hitting the prop. Dick without hesitation said I will help you guys since the plane is so far from the taxiway. I said thanks Dick but you are all clean and dry. He disregarded my comment and jumped out into 95 degree heat and humidity and walked with us to the plane. We got the plane up to the taxiway with all 4 of us soaked in sweat and muddy shoes.

    While thanking Dick for his help Dick hands me $20.00 bill and says he will turn in the tie -downs I rented from EAA for me and get the deposit back.

    Now Dick could have just passed us up and gone into town with his friend and avoided needing to take a shower but he didn’t and we were forever grateful for his help on that hot summer day, Dick thanks for being a good fellow and hope your trip west went well.

  10. That long covid is bad stuff. I’ve got it now, been 6 weeks and still here. I’m a young 70 so I figure I can fight it off, but Dick was 85, that was working against him. Covid has always hit older people hard. That’s where most of the deaths are, and especially those with co-morbidities’. But I wouldn’t think Dick had that, so I sure hate to see that it got him. We lost Steve Stavrakakis from covid as well, and he was in his early 60s. A main Reno air race announcer.

  11. I met Dick Rutan in Oshkosh in 1987 while working as an air traffic controller at the event. After a day shift, several of us controllers would head over to The Acee Deucee bar, where many air show pilots, and controllers would hang out. Dick came into the bar, and we had one controller who was awe struck to the point he wanted to meet him and say Hi to him. But he was too shy, and felt he wasn’t important enough to bother Mr. Rutan. So while this young controller got distracted, one of our veteran ORD controllers went up to the bar and told Dick the story, and the kid’s name. So after about 2 minutes, Dick looks over at us, gives us a big wide-eyed stare and grin, walked over to our group, and then said to this star struck young controller, “Are you Roger Z ….? I’ve been wanting to meet you all evening, but didn’t want to bother you”. “I am honored to meet you, Roger.” he talked to this young controller as if he was a long-lost friend, as we all had a good belly laugh at the reaction this young man had with his meeting of Dick. Such a genuine good-hearted man. May God rest his soul.

  12. Not every pilot leaves the profession better than when he joined it. Dick Rutan did just that in spades.. Mac