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Teenage Female Pilot Sets Flying Record


Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, gestures following her landing at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport, after a round-the-world trip in a light aircraft, in Wevelgem, Belgium, January 20, 2022. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)
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Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford set the world record Thursday as the youngest woman to fly alone around the world.

Rutherford took the Guinness World record that had been held by 30-year-old American flyer Shaesta Waiz since 2017. The youngest male to fly alone is Britain’s Travis Ludlow. He set that record on July 12, 2021, when he was 18 years and 150 days old.

The British-Belgian pilot started her trip around the world on August 18. It covered 51,000 kilometers over 52 countries and five continents. On Thursday, Rutherford landed her small airplane back in western Belgium.

"It's just really crazy, I haven't quite processed it," she said.

The flight was supposed to take three months. But bad weather and visa delays kept her grounded and extended the trip by about two months.

Rutherford started in Belgium and headed west over Britain, Iceland, and Greenland. The path took her over Canada, the United States, and Latin America.

Rutherford could not leave Alaska for a month because of weather and visa delays. A winter storm forced another long stop in the Russian Far East before she traveled to Korea, Indonesia, India, the Middle East, and back to Europe.

Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, arrives at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport after a round-the-world trip in a light aircraft, becoming the youngest female pilot to circle the planet alone, in Wevelgem, Belgium, January 20, 2022. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)
Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, arrives at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport after a round-the-world trip in a light aircraft, becoming the youngest female pilot to circle the planet alone, in Wevelgem, Belgium, January 20, 2022. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)


To meet the requirement for a round-the-world flight, Rutherford had to land on two points opposite each other on Earth: Jambi in Indonesia and Tumaco in Colombia.

The teenager said the last part of her trip, from Germany, had been difficult. She had to deal with rain and snow coming out of Frankfurt. But she was happy to be accompanied by the Belgian Air Force's Red Devils team before landing.

“The people were incredible, everywhere,” she said.

Rutherford said she has been traveling in small planes with her pilot parents since she was six. She gained her pilot’s license in 2020 and started flying herself at 14.

Rutherford dreams of being an astronaut. She hopes her trip will get more women interested in science, technology, and aviation.

On her website, Rutherford wrote, "Boys learn through toys, street names, history classes and movies that they can be scientists, astronauts, CEOs or presidents.”

She added, "Girls are often encouraged to be beautiful, kind, helpful and sweet. With my flight, I want to show young women that they can be bold, ambitious and make their dreams come true."

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Hai Do wrote this story for VOA Learning English with information from Guinness World Record, Reuters and the Associated Press.

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Words in This Story

crazy –adj. very strange or unusual

accompanied –adj. the state of going somewhere with someone else

aviation –n. the business or activity of flying airplanes, helicopters or similar vehicles

toy –n. an object for a child to play with

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