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Zara Rutherford becomes the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo in a small aircraft

Yesterday, Zara Rutherford, 19, completed her mission and became the youngest woman in history to fly solo around the world in a small aircraft. Her journey lasted 155 days or 5 months and 3 days. With her flight Zara wants to encourage young women to pursue their dreams and reduce the gender gap in aviation as well as in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Only 5% of commercial pilots and 15% of computer scientists are women. In both areas – aviation and STEM – the gender gap is huge. But during my journey I met many incredible, talented women – pilots, engineers, car racers. I believe together we can make a real change. We can encourage other women to be bold, ambitious and pursue their dreams.”

Zara Rutherford

Zara is 19 years old and on the 18th of August 2021 she set off from Kortrijk-Wevelgem, Belgium, heading West across the Atlantic. She stopped in Iceland and Greenland, flew through Canada, the USA and the Caribbean to Colombia. Then she continued North-West, crossed the Bering Strait from Alaska into Russia and flew further to South Korea, Indonesia, India, the Middle East and back home to Kortrijk in Belgium.

Her journey took twice as long as expected. In Alaska and Russia she waited several weeks in freezing temperatures for good weather conditions. She had to take a long detour over the sea to avoid North Korean airspace. In the Philippines she had to escape the super-typhoon Rai, in India she avoided thick smog which significantly reduced visibility. In California she faced wild-fires, in Dubai – heavy winds, and in Mexico – an earthquake. But everywhere she met extremely friendly people eager to help and encourage her to continue her inspiring mission.

Having completed her circumnavigation, Zara can now claim two Guinness World Records (GWR). The previous youngest female record holder, Shaesta Waiz, was 30 at the time of her flight. With this flight Zara has reduced the gender gap for the record by more than a decade.

Zara was flying a Shark, one of the fastest ultralight aircraft in the world, specially prepared for such a long journey.

Fact sheet about Zara’s journey:

Guinness World Records broken:
· The youngest person to circumnavigate solo by microlight is 19 years 199 days, achieved by Zara Rutherford (Belgium, b. 5 July 2002), on 20 January 2022
· Guinness World Record requirements: Zara had to include one pair of antipodals (points diametrically perfectly opposite to each other on the globe). On 3rd September 2021 she visited the first antipodal: Quibdo, Colombia (the wettest city on Earth). On 21st December she visited the second antipodal: Jakarta, Indonesia.
· Zara is also the first Belgian to have circumnavigated the world flying solo
· Aircraft: Shark Aero, one of the fastest ultralight aircraft in the world (up to 300 km/h), designed in the Czech Republic and manufactured in Slovakia
· Total distance: 52,080.3 km (28,121 nautical miles)
· Total time in the air: approx. 260 hours
· Takeoffs and landings: 71 (69 stops, including 10 diversions to an airfield other than planned; 2 returns to the same airfield)
· Longest flight: 2000 km (1080 nautical miles)
· Longest flight over water: 1861 km (1005 nautical miles)
· Highest altitude: 4200 meters (13,800 ft), over Greenland
· Continents visited: 5
· Countries visited: 31
· Highest temperature: +36 (Colombia)
· Lowest temperature: -34 (Magadan, Russia)
· Safety: Zara received advice from experienced pilots at all times. She was in contact with the flight operations team through the Iridium Communications satellite system and via YB Tracking. She had a personal locator beacon (PLB) with satellite connection, survival suit and a life-raft in case of landing in water. The Shark Aero is equipped with an integrated parachute.
· FlyZolo Team: Zara received invaluable help from hundreds of people in all locations along her route. She would particularly like to thank the British and Belgian governments. At all times she could also get assistance from her ground team based in Europe
SourceFly Zolo

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