At 7:27 a.m. December 15, 1979 Dick Rutan took off from the Mojave, California airport in the new Long-EZ prototype in an attempt to break a distance record held by a Czechoslovakian since 1959. The record is distance in a closed course for piston-engine aircraft weighing between 500 and 1000 kilograms (1102 to 2204 lb.). The old record was held by Jiri Kunc who flew 2955.39 miles in a L-40 Metsa Sokal aircraft in August 1959.
When Dick landed at 5:01 p.m. the next day, he had covered a distance of about 4900 statute miles, 4800.28 of it credited for the New Worlds distance record, pending FAI approval. The credited distance is equivalent to a straight-line flight from Seattle to London, or from Hawaii to Washington, D.C. Dicks 0-235 Lycoming-powered Long-EZ was modified to carry extra fuel in two wing tanks and a 74- gallon back-seat tank. Takeoff fuel was 143.6 gallons, loading the Long-EZ 600 pounds over its normal 1300 pound gross weight. Initial rate of climb was over 600 ft per minute allowing Dick to promptly climb the heavily-laden Long-EZ to his cruise altitude of 11,000 feet.
His course took him 15 complete laps between Mojave Airport and the Bishop, California Airport. The entire flight was blessed with perfect weather, cloudless visibility, smooth air, and less than 5 knots average wind at cruise altitude. However, the flight included over 14 hours of darkness over a sparsely populated area requiring extra demands on the pilot for attitude orientation and navigation. The aircraft did not have an autopilot, directional gyro or attitude indicator. The solo flight lasted 33 hour 34 minutes.
The average speed for the flight was 145.7 mph. The average fuel flow was 4.17 gallons per hour giving a mileage of 35 miles per gallon (The Long-EZ can attain over 40 miles per gallon at its normal gross weights). Dick landed with 3.75 gallons of fuel onboard - enough for an additional 150 miles, but not enough for another lap to Bishop and return. The lO8 horsepower Lycoming engine performed flawlessly despite its lSOO-hour-since-overhaul condition. It burned 2.3 quarts of oil during the flight.
Note that, at 1900 lb. (300 lb. under the allowed maximum for C1B). The range to dry tanks was over 5,000 miles. Future attempts, i.e., straight-line distance, can be flown at 1,000 kg take off weight (2205 lb.) and achieve over 6,500 miles range! Dick reported the cockpit was extremely comfortable, the only discomfort being suppressing the urge to sleep. The good speed stability allowed extensive cruising without need to monitor airspeed or altitude.