A British-Belgian teenager became the youngest woman to fly solo around the globe on Thursday (January 20) and the first person to do so in a microlight plane after a five-month, five-continent odyssey in her Shark ultralight.
Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford landed back at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in Belgium after flying 51,000 km (32,000 miles) over 52 nations since her Aug. 18 departure in the world’s fastest microlight aircraft.
Cheers and applause went up as her plane came to a halt on the tarmac.
“It’s just really crazy, I haven’t quite processed it,” Rutherford, smiling broadly and cloaked in British and Belgian flags, told reporters.
To meet criteria for a round-the-world flight, Rutherford touched two points opposite each other on the globe: Jambi in Indonesia and Tumaco in Colombia.
The teenager said the last leg of her journey, from Germany, had been tricky because rain and snow meant she had to “wiggle in some valleys” coming out of Frankfurt, but was delighted to be accompanied by light aircraft of the Belgian Air Force’s Red Devils aerobatic display team for the final stretch.
Having gained her pilot’s licence in 2020 after training with her father since 14, she now wants to study engineering at a U.S. or British university from September.
Rutherford dreams of being an astronaut and hopes her voyage will encourage women in science, technology and aviation, according to her website.