Zara Rutherford just became the youngest woman to fly solo around the globe: the 19-year-old flew in an ultra-light aircraft – with only two seats and no flying instruments – and overcame many challenges along the way, including thunderstorms, wildfire smoke, and even visa-related issues.
Rutherford, the British-Belgian daughter of two pilots, began learning how to fly at the age of fourteen and received her first license in 2020. Her journey, 155 days in total, set the new world record, held previously by Shaesta Waiz who was there to offer her words of encouragement during one of her stops in Florida. “It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what your gender or your age is; it’s all about determination,” Waiz said of Rutherford when she learned she had accomplished her goal.
The young globe-trotter spanned five continents and 28,000 nautical miles and supported two charities, both of which support women in STEM (science, technology, electronics, and mathematics), along the way. “It’s an easy thing to say, but just go for it,” Rutherford encouraged, “If you don’t try and see how high you can fly, then you’ll never know.” Her parents, as well as many other supporters, greeted her with cheers when she landed in Belgium, the same country she had departed from five months prior.