A 19-year-old student is set to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world as part of her gap year project.
Unlike most school alumni, who will be jetting off straight to South-East Asia or South America to spend their gap year clubbing for days on end, Zara Rutherford has set herself the challenge of flying around the world solo, with the hopes to beat a world record.
Rutherford is due to begin her flight from her home city of Brussels on August 11, with the journey expected to take up to three months.
View this post on Instagram
The student, who has British and Belgian nationality, studied at St Swithun’s school in Winchester, Hampshire. She announced her impressive self-funded gap year project at Popham airfield near Winchester, and spoke of how flying runs in the family.
Rutherford told the PA news agency:
‘The greatest challenge will be the remote places like northern Russia or Greenland – there aren’t many people who live there so if anything were to go wrong I would be in a bit of an awkward situation. I’ve got a bit of nerves and excitement, sometimes both.
‘My entire family are pilots so I have been flying my entire life and I started formal training when I was 14 and I got my licence last year. My parents are completely on board. My mum took some convincing but she got there. My dad is very supportive and is helping with the logistics.’
View this post on Instagram
The current female record holder for flying around the world solo is American Shaesta Waiz, who completed her circumnavigation in 2017 aged 30. The youngest male record holder for the feat was 18 years old.
Rutherford has hopes of becoming an astronaut after studying computer science or electrical engineering at university. She said: ‘At first, I was planning to fly around the world as an adventure during my gap year, not realising I would become the youngest woman to do so if I achieved it.
‘It was only when I started researching more that I noticed I could be the first Belgian and the youngest woman to solo circumnavigate the globe. I’m hoping to get more girls interested in aviation.’
Rutherford will be flying a Shark ultralight, which is the world’s fastest light sport aircraft, with an extra fuel tank as company in the spare seat of the plane.
Her route will cross over the Atlantic, over Greenland, Canada and South America, before going up to Alaska, then crossing to Russia and Indonesia, before returning to Europe. It has been chosen to fulfil the Guinness World Records’ requirements to be an ‘around-the-world flight’.
Rutherford continued: ‘I am incredibly excited by this route and can’t wait. There will be many challenges on the way but experiencing all these cultures, and their food, will be amazing and worth it. I am most looking forward to South America and Greenland.’