British teenager uses gap year to become youngest woman to fly solo around the globe

·2-min read
British teenager uses gap year to become youngest woman to fly solo around the globe

A 19-year-old has become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.

Zara Rutherford landed at Kortrijk-Wevelgem airport in Belgium accompanied by four planes from the Belgian Red Devils aerobatic display team.

The teenager, who has both British and Belgian nationality, was greeted by family and friends, who cheered as she arrived in her Shark Ultralight, the world’s fastest light sport aircraft.

She then posed for photos, holding a Union and a Belgian flag.

The plane’s spare seat had been removed to accommodate an extra fuel tank and to avoid any questions about another person flying with her.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Miss Rutherford set off in August for the trip, which was aimed at breaking the records for the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo and the youngest person to do so in a microlight aircraft.

She previously studied at St Swithun’s School in Winchester, Hampshire, and the solo trip was her gap year project before she goes to university, where she plans to study computer science or computer engineering, with the long-term ambition of becoming an astronaut.

Prior to her departure, she told the PA news agency: “At first I was planning to fly around the world as an adventure during my gap year, not realising I would become the youngest woman to do so if I achieved it.

“It was only when I started researching more that I noticed I could be the first Belgian and the youngest woman to solo circumnavigate the globe.

 (PA Media)
(PA Media)

“I’m hoping to get more girls interested in aviation.”

The route took her through the UK, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, the US and Latin America to Colombia, then back north via Alaska to Russia China, Indonesia, India and the Middle East before ending in Belgium.

The previous female record-holder was American Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 at the time of her circumnavigation in 2017, while the youngest male record-holder is 18.

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