Zara Rutherford, 19, landed at Kortrijk-Wevelgem in Belgium to complete her round-the-world challenge. The 19-year-old became the youngest female pilot to fly worldwide solo; she completed her extraordinary challenge in five months. American aviator, Barbara Sarff, who completed the solo trip at age 23 in 1976, held the previous record.
The Action Plan
The Nottingham Trent University student, Zara Rutherford, decided to take on the challenge at the age of 16 when another teenage pilot who had achieved the feat aged 19 inspired her. Therefore, despite only flying three years ago and still being in her first year of a degree, she took an extended study leave to fly around the globe.
Zara assembled an eight-part team to help with 2,500 hours of research, planning, and preparation for the journey – which saw her spend 420 hours flying and 241 hours getting through ‘potholes in paperwork.’
The Journey Around the World
Zara, a pilot with British Airways, and her father David flew in one of the airline’s Boeing 777 planes from Hong Kong. She flew via the Middle East and Asia before landing in Australia on October 11. She then traveled across the Pacific Ocean via North America and Central America before crossing the Atlantic to Europe, where she had started her journey.
She then flew to China, where she couch-surfed before taking a train to Siberia. She added: “The hardest part was flying over Siberia – it was freezing, and if the engine were to stall, I’d be hours away from rescue. I’m not sure I would have survived.”
It Wasn’t Easy
Zara flew over 5 million miles in her Cessna 172SP plane and visited 29 countries during her trip, which took place between March and August this year. During this time, she battled through sand storms, thunderstorms, and even engine trouble before touching down safely back.
Rutherford had initially planned to make an 18-month trip but was forced to cut it short due to funding issues and completed it in five months. The trip took her through 23 countries and 44,000 feet of climbs and descents with just the help of her two-way radio and satellite phone. The adventurer from Kidlington near Oxford completed the epic journey in 17 days and set off in her red and white Piper PA28 Warrior on July 10.
But It Was Worth It
She made the final leg of her trip from the Belgian town of Kortrijk-Wevelgem to fly over New York’s Statue of Liberty before crossing the finishing line in an airfield near her hometown, Nottingham. Touching down in Brussels just before 5 pm. Her parents, husband, and friends were there to greet her.
She said: “It was incredibly emotional. I had to pinch myself several times to check I wasn’t dreaming. It has been a long journey, but it has been worth it.” Zara’s trip began on June 24 when she set off from Southampton.
Speaking from Farnborough Airfield after landing, she said: “I’m so happy to be back on British soil and so grateful for this experience.”
She’s an Inspiration to Many
Zara Rutherford, 19, of Cambridgeshire, flew her single-engine Robin DR400/180 round the world in 5 months, 15 days, and 3 hours, finishing at the Sandtoft airfield in Doncaster last week. Traveling at an average speed of 110mph, she passed through 25 countries and made 19 stops before landing at her home airport.
After completing the epic journey, Rutherford was greeted by her mother, father, and sister. Her father, Steve, said: “I’m very proud of her and what she’s achieved.” She first took to the skies when she was 12. In addition, Rutherford decided to attempt the trip a year ago – giving herself five months to complete it.
She has already clocked up more than 500 hours of flying time and aims to become a professional pilot. “I would like to inspire more girls to do something crazy with their lives,” she said. Zara’s mother is the chief flight instructor for her flight school, and her father is a senior pilot for an airline. She says she gets inspiration from them and Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
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