19-year-old woman sets record for solo global flight

Brussels — Home! And I’m no longer alone.

19-year-old Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford set a world record as the youngest woman to fly alone around the world by landing on a small plane in western Belgium on Thursday, 155 days after departure.

She counts it for herself and her family and dedicates it to all the young women who are trying to succeed in male-dominated areas like aviation, and to the exact science that drives the industry.

“Good luck. It takes a lot of time, patience and a lot of work, but it’s incredible,” she said, from the frozen tundra in Siberia to the typhoons in the Philippines and the Arabian Desert.

At one point, her one-seater shark microlight plane was filled with the stinks of a California wildfire. In many cases, she flew absolutely lonely over the sea and desolate lands. She had to spend weeks in isolation in a small Siberian village in Ayan with little contact with her family and the world she knew.

I rarely felt sweet enough to hug the pilot’s parents and siblings on Thursday.

“At first we celebrate this by being together with our family,” said her mother Beatrice. She said, “Zara wants to sleep for about two weeks to celebrate.”

When she wakes up, she will find herself in the Guinness World Records book after setting the mark held by 30-year-old American aviator Shaesta Waiz since 2017.

The overall record remains out of the grasp of Rutherford as Briton Travis Ludlow set its benchmark at 18 last year.

Her global flight would have taken three months, but relentless bad weather and visa problems caused her to stranded for weeks, extending her adventure by about two months.

On Thursday, rain, drizzle, sunshine, and even the rainbow at Kortrijk Airport illustrated the changes in bad weather she often faced.

She made an airport flyby before the final landing after being escorted by a formation of four aircraft in a giant V across most of Belgium. After waving to a crowd of delights, she crouched on both the Union Jack and the Belgian Tricolor flag.

Belgium-British teen pilot Zara Rutherford Photo
Belgium-British teen pilot Zara Rutherford (left) will be escorted on January 20, 2022, over Kortrijk Airport in Kortrijk, Belgium, as he flies a shark’s ultra-lightweight plane in the center. .. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP Photo)

With a trek of over 52,000 kilometers (28,000 nautical miles), she stopped on five continents and visited 41 countries.

Rutherford’s flight saw her avoid wildfires in California, cope with the cold over Russia, and barely avoid North Korean airspace. She flew in VFR, but basically only in sight, and often slowed down if a more sophisticated system could pass through clouds and fog.

Sometimes she was afraid of her life, and at other times she simply longed for the simple comfort of the house. Her parents are both pilots and she has traveled on small planes since she was 6 years old, so her flight runs in her blood. At the age of 14, she started flying herself.

Soon, the dream of flying around the world grew in her mind.

“But I never thought it was possible. I thought it was too difficult, too dangerous, and too expensive,” he said.

For the money part, sponsorship and people’s contributions handled it. Due to the factors of danger and difficulty, she did it herself.

In terms of timing, it fits perfectly between high school and college.

“In fact, I thought this was a great opportunity to do crazy things and fly around the world,” she said.

At the last touchdown, teenagers want to infuse young women and girls around the world with the spirit of aviation and their enthusiasm for research in accurate science, mathematics, engineering and technology.

In September she wants to go to a university in the UK or the US to study electrical engineering.

By Raf Casert

Associated Press