A 19-year-old British-Belgian pilot landed her plane on Wednesday at an airstrip near Frankfurt, Germany, one stop away from becoming the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.
Zara Rutherford told reporters she wanted to “sleep for a week” after she climbed out of the single-seat Shark ultralight aircraft at Egelsbach airfield a few kilometers from Frankfurt. If all goes as planned, Rutherford will land Thursday in Kortrijk, Belgium, where her journey began August 18.
The nearly 51,500-kilometer journey took her across the Atlantic Ocean, over Iceland and Greenland, and into New York City. Down the U.S. East Coast and the Caribbean to Columbia then back up through Central America and up the U.S. West Coast to Alaska and across the Bering Strait to Russia, south to South Korea, Indonesia, India, the Mideast and back to Europe.
The trip was all the more challenging as she flew without the aid of flight instruments or a pressurized cabin.
Weather, minor equipment issues and visa problems in Asia set her back from her schedule by several days. But at this point, Rutherford told reporters she is glad to be almost done.
She said her big goal is to use her experience to encourage other young women to go into flying or study science, technology and mathematics “and other fields they might not have thought about.”
Rutherford plans to go to college next September in either Britain or the United States to study engineering.
If she lands in Belgium as planned Thursday, Rutherford will have broken a record set by American aviator Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she set the existing record for the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo in 2017.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.