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(REUTERS/Yves Herman)
Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, before departing for a round-the-world trip in a light aircraft, aiming to become the youngest female pilot to circle the planet alone, in Wevelgem, Belgium. (REUTERS/Yves Herman)

Teen woman breaks the flying solo record by going around the world in 155 days

Zara Rutherford, a 19-year-old pilot, successfully landed in Belgium to complete her record-breaking journey, becoming the youngest woman to ever do it.

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The art of flying may not be an easy task, but Zara Rutherford at 19-years-old showed the world on Thursday that dreams can come true.

History will now mark Jan. 20, 2022 as the day the youngest female pilot broke the flying solo record, once previously held by Shaesta Waiz, a 30-year-old American pilot, in 2017. Rutherford completed her roundtrip in 155 days.

The journey began when Rutherford took flight departing from Belgium on August 8, 2021. A flight tracker of her route over 41 nations and five continents revealed lengthy delays Rutherford experienced during her rest stops.

In an ABC News report, Rutherford told the outlet that issues with her visa, COVID-19, and maintenance setbacks all led to her initial three-month trip to extend to about five months in total.

Other challenges like hazardous weather and seeking shelter also complicated Rutherford’s journey.  

Nevertheless, Rutherford celebrates the achievement of reducing the flying solo gender gap by 11 years compared to 18-year-old Travis Ludlow, who completed his world trip on July 12, 2021 in 44 days.

“I hope to reduce the gender gap in Aviation and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), but also to encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams,” said Rutherford.

For the journey, Rutherford flew in a microlight aircraft, also known as ultralight aviation, called Shark Aero. The plane was lightweight, featuring a smaller wing, and was designed to travel at high speeds of up to 186mph cross-country.

Rutherford’s interest in aviation began at a young age as she followed in the footsteps of her parents and grandparents who are all experienced pilots. She took her first flight at the age of 14.

Sam Rutherford, Zara’s father, told ABC News that his daughter learned to fly when she was given opportunities to sit upfront in a plane, and while there she learned to “manipulate the controls and move the aircraft around.”

Former record-holder Waiz said she was excited to see the young woman up for the challenge she completed five years ago.

Some of Rutherford’s other aspirations include studying computer science and engineering, as well as one day becoming an astronaut.

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