Sunday, February 25, 2024

Heroine of the Hour 2022 – ‘Flying Teenager’ Zara Rutherford

19-year-old Belgian-British aviator Zara Rutherford’s solo flight around the world in 155 days deserves to be celebrated

Young ladies are truly dominating on the record breaking stage right now and aside from 25-year-old Hollie Doyle’s remarkable 2,522/1 win at Kempton Park last year, this morning’s news that 19-year-old Zara Rutherford had become the youngest female pilot to fly solo around the world is to be celebrated.


Born in Brussels to a British professional pilot father, Sam Rutherford, and a Belgian recreational pilot and lawyer Beatrice de Smet, this St Swithun’s School, Winchester educated teenager spent five months between 18th August 2021 and 20th January 2022 circumnavigating the world in a microlight.

Aside from being delayed by the acrid smoke of wildfires in California at the start of her journey and G-force turbulence along the way, this modest to her core girl raced against time and the weather on her journey to success.


Of her experiences in her two-seater microlight, Zara Rutherford told The Guardian’s Jennifer Rankin:


“It’s about living in the present; the next five, 10 minutes, rather than the next four hours, because in four hours the weather can change.”


“For my whole trip around the world it uses the same amount of fuel as a Boeing does in about 10 minutes, so although it has a negative impact, it’s not as big as it seems at first glance. And I was also doing some carbon offsetting.”


“It was good to have things I was familiar with, because especially in Siberia, Saudi Arabia and most of Asia, everything was so different, the culture, the climate the people – everyone was very generous and very kind, but I felt so, so far away from home, so having music I could sing along to was really helpful.”


“Aviation is a very big industry and it’s not going anywhere. As we go towards electric aircraft, we will continue to need pilots, so I am hoping to get more women involved.”


Zara Rutherford 1
Zara Rutherford became the youngest woman to fly around the world solo last Thursday after completing a journey of over 32,000 miles and crossing five continents. American pilot Shaesta Waiz, the previous record holder, was 30 when she flew around the world in 2017 whilst the youngest male record holder, Travis Ludlow, completed his solo flight around the world, last July aged just 18. Of her success, ‘The Washington Post’ observed: “When she landed her Shark UL plane at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in western Belgium after a five-month trip plagued by unexpected obstacles, Rutherford opened the cockpit and stood up to greet a cheering crowd, her arms in the air and a grin on her face. ‘I made it,’ she told reporters.
Zara Rutherford 2
Amongst the myriad of challenges faced by the British-Belgian teenager were an encounter with a typhoon in the South China Sea. In five months of flying solo around the world in her ultra-light aircraft, Sharky, she has fished in Alaska, spent a month in the remotest region of Russia with no-WiFi and suffered a lightning strike also.
Zara Rutherford 3
Of her self-funded journey to a double entry in the Guinness World Records before she’s even gone to university, this intrepid traveler admitted: “Before I took off I was extremely nervous. I had a sense I might not ever come home again.” Her enthusiasm is telling and of her experiences, she told the ‘Daily Mail’: “Everything was so different – food, culture, climate, surroundings. I came to depend on my music, which was familiar, a small thing that meant a lot. A good toothbrush helped too. I missed my family, my pets, walking in the forest, all the things which make home, home.”
Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.



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