A Belgian-British teenager made history by becoming the youngest woman to fly around the world alone.
Zara Rutherford, 19, landed at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in Flanders today, just after 1pm local time, completing a journey of 52,000 kilometers (28,100 nautical miles) that took her across 31 countries on five continents.
“It’s really crazy. “I have not yet processed the information,” Rutherford told reporters, wrapped in a British and Belgian flag.
She said there were “incredible moments” but also moments when she feared for her life. “I would say the hardest part was flying over Siberia, because it was just extremely cold. “It was minus 35 degrees on the ground.… If the engine had stopped then, rescuers would have arrived in a few hours and I do not know how long I could have survived.”
With a smooth landing on the runway, she became the first woman to fly around the world on her own in a light aircraft and the first Belgian to fly around the globe on her own. Rutherford’s parents were pilots and began flying small planes when she was a child. At the age of 14 she learned to fly and dreamed of traveling around the world.
“The dream was to really fly around the world. “But I always thought it was impossible: it was an expensive, dangerous, complicated, logistical nightmare,” she said in a television interview earlier this month. “So I never thought about it twice. “And then I was finishing school and I thought: if I want to do something crazy with my life, this is the perfect time to do it.”
On August 18 last year, it took off with its two-seater Shark Aero, one of the fastest light aircraft in the world, which can reach speeds of up to 300 km / h. Flying west, it landed in the UK, Greenland, America and Russia, then descended to Southeast Asia, north to India, the Middle East and Egypt, and back to Europe.
Zara now plans to study electrical engineering and hopes to become an astronaut. The teenager, who cites US aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova as her inspirations, said she hoped her trip would encourage more girls to pursue science and engineering.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t really see a lot of female pilots or female IT people,” she said. “These are my two passions and it is very discouraging when there is no one doing any of those things you can look up to.”
She said she hoped “other girls would see me and think: ‘I would like to fly one day too.’