Zara Rutherford turns into youngest lady to fly the world solo


(CNN) — Teenage aviator Zara Rutherford has change into the youngest lady to fly around the globe solo.

The 19-year-old, who has twin British-Belgian nationality, landed at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in western Belgium on Thursday, finishing an epic 41-country journey spanning over 52,000 kilometers (32,300 miles), and broke two Guinness World Information within the course of.

“I made it,” Rutherford, who obtained a rapturous welcome on her arrival, informed reporters.

Not solely has she crushed the report held by American Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she circumnavigated the globe unaccompanied in 2017, Rutherford additionally now holds the title for the primary lady to circumnavigate the world in a microlight plane.

She can also be the primary Belgian to fly around the globe alone.

Nonetheless, {the teenager}’s path to glory hasn’t been with out its challenges.

When Rutherford departed on August 18, 2021 in a bespoke Shark ultralight plane, she believed her aerial escapade would take about three months.

Mission accomplished

Teenage pilot Zara Rutherford lands in Belgium on January 20 after completing her solo round-the-world trip.

Teenage pilot Zara Rutherford lands in Belgium on January 20 after finishing her solo round-the-world journey.

John Thys/AFP/Getty Pictures

However she was tormented by setbacks, together with month-long delays in each Alaska and Russia resulting from “visa and climate points,” pushing her schedule again eight weeks.

“I might say the toughest half was positively flying over Siberia — it was extraordinarily chilly. It was minus 35 levels Celsius on the bottom,” Rutherford stated throughout a press convention on Thursday.

“If the engine had been to stall, I would be hours away from rescue and I do not understand how lengthy I may have survived for.”

She was additionally pressured to make an unscheduled touchdown in Redding, California resulting from poor visibility because of the wildfires within the Seattle space and was later denied permission to fly over China.

“I hoped to finish it by Christmas however I assume that is not occurring anymore,” Rutherford informed reporters at Gimpo Worldwide Airport in Seoul, South Korea after arriving from Vladivostok on December 13. “However it’s an journey.”

Whereas she’s flown to an array of locations, resembling Singapore, Egypt and Greece, together with Russia and South Korea, Rutherford has been unable to discover any of them on land resulting from Covid-19 restrictions.

The ultimate leg of her journey was additionally hit with delays resulting from dangerous climate, which meant her completion date was moved again one other week.

Document-breaking mission

Rutherford is presently on a niche yr and plans to go to school in September to check laptop engineering. Though each of her dad and mom are pilots and he or she has been studying to fly since she was 14, Rutherford did not get her first license till 2020.

One among her principal goals for this problem, other than breaking Waiz’s report, was to make sure larger visibility for ladies in aviation.

Final yr, Rutherford spoke of her disappointment at the truth that simply 5.1% of airline pilots across the globe are girls, in line with figures from the Worldwide Society of Girls Airline Pilots (ISA).

“[5%] is such a small quantity, contemplating it is a profession the place you mainly receives a commission to journey around the globe — clearly it is work, however it’s an incredible profession with wonderful alternatives,” she informed CNN.

Elevating consciousness

Rutherford has been supporting two charities on her journey: Ladies Who Code, which helps younger girls coming into laptop science, and Desires Soar, a nonprofit based by Waiz, that helps girls and ladies coming into STEM fields.

She hopes that her high-profile journey will encourage extra younger women and girls to contemplate a profession in aviation.

“It is a straightforward factor to say, however simply go for it,” Rutherford added. “Should you do not try to see how excessive you may fly, then you definitely’ll by no means know.”

The 2-seat ultralight plane she accomplished the journey in was supplied by Shark Aero, one of many sponsors for the journey, with customizations resembling a second radio, and an extra gas tank within the place the place the second passenger seat would usually sit.

The aircraft has an optimum cruising velocity of 140 knots (about 160 mph), in line with Rutherford’s official web site Fly Zolo, and is supplied with an built-in parachute.

CNN’s Rebecca Cairns additionally contributed to this report.

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