A 19-year-old from Belgium may soon become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.
Zara Rutherford took off in August in a tiny ultralight aircraft called a Shark UL. To break the Guinness world record for the youngest female to traverse the skies alone, she is attempting to cross two antipodal points — points that are on opposite sides of the globe — from South America to Indonesia, according to the Juneau Empire, an Alaskan newspaper.
Rutherford, who is chronicling her journey on her website Fly Solo, crossed 52 countries and five continents so far. Her daring route around the world has taken her across the Atlantic to Greenland, then down the Eastern Seaboard to Central America. From there, she soared up the Western Coast of the United States, navigating through wildfires and bad weather before touching down in Alaska.
She told the Juneau Empire that flying around the world has been harder than she thought. “I’ve had 39 flights and maybe 3 of them have gone with no hiccups,” she said. “Either the plane’s acting up a bit, or the weather’s really tricky, or it’s gotten bumpy out of nowhere. When I get in the plane, chances are something is going to go wrong.”
She next heads to Russia, then will make her way down to the Southeast Pacific before flying west to the Middle East and Africa. She expects to return to Europe by early November.
While she’s in the sky, Rutherford is raising awareness for women who want to pursue careers as pilots and engineers. She plans to study computer science and computer engineering in college, according to her website. Aside from her dream of becoming the world’s youngest woman to fly around the globe, she also dreams of becoming an astronaut. But for now, she’s focused on making it home safely.
“It’s been really fun,” she said of her adventure. “There’s been some hard moments but they make it so rewarding.”
Follow Rutherford’s journey on her website.
What’s it like to work as a computer engineer? Is majoring in electrical engineering more difficult than other fields? Check out these profiles of individuals studying and working in various fields and discover what it’s like to be an engineer.