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Teen sets record for solo flight around the world

Zara Rutherford stops at an airport in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday before completing her trip around the world in Belgium on Thursday. Associated Press/Photo by Michael Probst

Teen sets record for solo flight around the world

While former classmates started college in the fall, 19-year-old Zara Rutherford opted for a gap year and took off in her one-seat Shark microlight plane. The Belgian-British pilot aimed to fly around the world in three months, but weather and pandemic delays extended the trip to five. Still, she set a record on Thursday as the youngest woman to achieve a solo global flight.

How was her trip? Rutherford battled harsh weather nearly the entire 155 days. She was stuck for a month in Nome, Alaska, and isolated for more than 40 days in Russia. Weather delays made her late for her stop in Russia, so she had to renew her visa and relay her passport via air to the Russian Consulate. While waiting, Rutherford worked on her university applications. Extreme cold in Siberia required plane repairs, and inclement weather forced her to land in Indonesia, where she slept in the airport terminal for two days because she did not have the appropriate paperwork. Thick wildfire smoke over California made navigation difficult. She spent Christmas with a flat tire in Singapore and faced an earthquake in Mexico. All told, Rutherford made 60 stops across five continents.

Dig deeper: From the WORLD archives, read Rob Holmes’ report on two pilots who flew around the world in a solar-powered plane.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College graduate. She resides in Washington, D.C.



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