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Dick Rutan Counts His Blessings

Dick Rutan

December 20, 2007 — World record-setting pilot Dick Rutan (EAA 94971) had a scare this week when he was reportedly forced to make an emergency landing in his Cessna 150M while en route from Mojave, California, to attend a memorial service for a friend in Palm Springs. The airplane had engine troubles shortly after takeoff on December 18, causing Rutan to land on a small road in the desert city of Victorville early that morning. He escaped the incident with no serious injuries.

"It was sudden, catastrophic, and inexplicable," Rutan told the Associated Press. He was flying about 1,000 feet above the ground when the engine died, then landed just eight miles away from Victorville Airport. "This was a major incident," he told AP. "If I had been over the clouds and had to land on a mountain, my chance of surviving would probably have been zero."

This incident marks the fourth time Rutan has escaped an aviation accident. He once ejected from a burning F-100 in Vietnam, parachuted out of a balloon in 1998 after a helium cell ruptured, and escaped from a plane that landed on thin ice and sank on the North Pole in 2000.

Rutan is best known for making aviation history in 1986 when he and Jeana Yeager flew the Burt Rutan-designed Voyager aircraft around the world without stopping or refueling.

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