Zara Rutherford Becomes Youngest Woman to Fly Solo Around Globe in 155-Day Trip

A teenage pilot set a new world record for becoming the youngest woman to fly solo around the world following a five-month adventure spanning over 40 countries and five continents.

British-Belgian Zara Rutherford, 19, landed in her small airplane in Belgium Thursday after traveling 32,300 miles. For her endeavor, she broke two Guinness World Records.

Rutherford became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, beating the previous record set by Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 years old at the time of her adventure.

Guinness World Records said Rutherford also broke a second record during her trip by becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo by microlight.

"It's just really crazy, I haven't quite processed it," she told reporters, per BBC.

Rutherford's journey hit some turbulence along the way. When she left on August 18 in her Shark ultralight aircraft, Rutherford estimated the trip would take an estimated three months to complete. However, it ended up taking much longer, CNN reported.

Her global flight was faced with maintenance issues, bad weather, COVID-19 and visa problems which kept her out of the air for weeks at a time and extended her trip by two months. But Rutherford wasn't going to abandon her mission.

"When you're flying alone and suddenly this challenge comes up, I can't say, 'I'm done. I'm out. I give up.' You have to still land the plane. You have to make sure that you get down on the ground safely," she told ABC News.

Rutherford faced several lengthy stays while traveling. The BBC reported that she was stuck in Nome, Alaska, for a month, and also spent 41 days in Russia due to weather and visa issues. However, the young explorer said the most challenging duration of her trip was flying over Siberia.

"It was extremely cold. It was minus 35 degrees Celsius on the ground. If the engine were to stall, I'd be hours away from rescue and I don't know how long I could have survived for," she recalled during a press conference.

Rutherford had to make an unexpected stop after the weather altered her original plans. She was forced to land in Redding, California, after wildfires caused poor visibility near Seattle. She was also unable to fly over China because she was reportedly denied permission, per CNN.

While Rutherford flew to places like Singapore, Egypt, Greece, Russia and South Korea, she was unable to explore the locations because of COVID-19.

"It's been ... challenging, but so amazing at the same time," Rutherford said, per ABC News. "I think there're some experiences that I'll just never forget and others that I would wish to forget."

On Rutherford's website Flyzolo, the explorer said she hopes to reduce the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and "encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams."

"I'm looking forward to telling people about my experiences and encouraging people to do something crazy with your life," she said at the press conference.

Youngest Woman to Fly Solo Around Globe
Belgium-British teenage pilot Zara Rutherford holds up her certificates after landing her Shark ultralight plane at the Kortrijk airport in Kortrijk, Belgium, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. The 19-year-old Belgium-British pilot has set a world record as the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, touching her small airplane down in western Belgium on Thursday, 155 days after she departed. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP Photo