An ultralight plane piloted by a young woman from Belgium took off from Albuquerque (ABQ), New Mexico, in the United States, on September 10, 2021, headed northward. But it was no ordinary flight. ABQ was but one of many stops on 19-year-old Zara Rutherford’s record-breaking attempt to fly solo (“Zolo” in urban slang) around the world.
It turns out that she succeeded, now holding the title of the youngest woman to achieve this feat in a single-engine aircraft, taking over from Shaesta Waiz, an American from Afghanistan, who circumnavigated the globe solo at age 30 in 2017.
Rutherford, who also holds British nationality, will dramatically cut the gap to the youngest male holder, Travis Ludlow, who was 18 years (and 150 days) old when he accomplished the same thing in July 2021.
The first woman to fly solo around the world was Geraldine ‘Jerrie’ Mock, a housewife from Columbus, Ohio. Mock completed the 23,103-mile flight in 29 days 11 hours 59 minutes, landing at Port Columbus Airport on April 17, 1964.
Rutherford’s aim with her solo circumnavigation flight in the two-seater Shark Aircraft was to reduce the gender gap in aviation, as well as in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
“With this flight, I want to encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams,” the aviatrix wrote on her website, Flyzolo.com.
The 19-year-old pilot cites her inspirations as Lillian Bland, Bessie Coleman, Valentina Tereshkova, and Amelia Earhart. Not content with flying solo around the world, another one of Rutherford’s dreams is to become an astronaut.
Becky Lutte, Associate Professor in the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, noted that women represent less than 20% of the aviation workforce in most occupations, including only 5% of airline pilots and 2.5% of maintenance technicians.
“Outreach to young women is essential to closing the gender gap in aviation,” Lutte said.
The below composite video is 6:34 minutes long.
Here are some of the interesting data that summarizes here flight’s accomplishments.:
Aircraft used: The Shark, an Ultralite built-in Slovakia, Czech Republic.
Total distance covered in flight: 52,080.3 Miles (over twice the distance of Jerry Mock’s flight!)
Total time in flight: 200 hours
Number of stops: 69, including 10 diversions to airfields other than planned
Returns to the same airfield from which departed: 2
Longest Leg: 2000 KM, or 1080 Nautical Miles (NM)
Longest Leg over water: 1861 KM or 1005 NM
Highest Altitude Flown: 13,800′ (Over Greenland)
Continents into which flown: 5
Countries into which flown: 31
Highest Temperature Experienced: 31 Degrees Celsius (87.8 Fahrenheit) in Indonesia
Lowest Temperature: -34 Celsius (- 29.2 degrees F)