At 19, Zara Rutherford Set a Record for Flying Around the World

An impressive aerial journey

Zara Rutherford
Zara Rutherford pictured during her record attempt to become the youngest woman ever to fly solo around the world in a small plane.

On Thursday, Zara Rutherford landed her plane at an airfield in Belgium and set two records in the process. As The Washington Post reports, the 19-year-old pilot became the first woman to traverse the globe using a microlight aircraft. She also now holds the record for the youngest woman to do so, breaking the record that Shaesta Waiz — 30 at the time — set in 2017.

She left Belgium in mid-August, 2021 and made her way westward, first to the United Kingdom, Iceland and Greenland, and then to Canada and the United States. A chart on her website offers a look at her route in full, including the days in which maintenance or other issues forced her to delay her journey around the world. All told, she stopped in 41 countries over the course of five months.

For Rutherford, flying is something of a family calling: both of her parents are pilots, and she first learned to fly when she was 14 years old. On her website, she describes her goal as “to encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams and promote aviation and STEM-related careers … for them.” She also notes that she’s all of 11 months older than the youngest man to fly around the globe, Travis Ludlow.

Her voyage involved some unpredictable elements, including being unable to fly in Chinese airspace due to pandemic-related regulations. Having to contend with such issues on the fly — no pun intended — is just one of the many impressive aspects of her journey.

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