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Voyager Nears South American Coast

December 21, 1986

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) _ Voyager neared the end of its Atlantic crossing Sunday, riding tailwinds toward the coast of South America in an effort to set an aviation landmark by circling the globe without refueling.

″It’s kind of like the little plane that could,″ spokesman Peter Riva said from mission control in this small desert community, where round-the- clock volunteers tracked the hardy aircraft’s progress.

The aircraft, designed especially for the record attempt, was about 150 miles northeast of Georgetown, Guyana, at 4:30 a.m. PST, spokesman Gary Gunnell said.

He charted its location at 7 degrees, 21 minutes north latitude and 54 degrees, 18 minutes west longitude.

Voyager had traveled 20,281 miles, with 4,913 more miles to go, and was cruising about 129 mph at 10,000 feet altitude, he said.

Copilot Jeana Yeager was at the controls while Dick Rutan grabbed some sleep in the tiny cockpit.

Gunnell predicted Voyager would slow down later Sunday as it loses the tailwinds that have pushed it across the Atlantic Ocean.

The plane is due to turn northward after crossing Central America for the final leg of its return trip to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it took off Dec. 14 and is scheduled to land on Tuesday.

″Getting home is going to be the hardest part,″ said Riva. Headwinds could slow the plane enormously, he added.

The fragile-looking but sturdy craft weathered two crises over the Atlantic on Saturday. Oil pressure dropped and oil temperature rose about 4 a.m. PST, but the pilots quickly corrected the problem by adding oil to the rear engine.

Later that day, unexpected turbulence tossed the plane about, sending it into 90-degree banks that designer Burt Rutan described as ″a couple of upsets.″

Voyager was skirting around or through some minor turbulence early Sunday, Gunnell said, but no serious problems had been encountered.

″The crew’s spirits are high,″ he added.

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