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New Horizons

Record-Setting Teen Encourages Students to Reach for the Sky

Zara Rutherford, fresh from her round-the-world flight, hopes to inspire girls the world over.

Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford is wise beyond her years. As the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, she already appreciates the exhilaration and satisfaction that comes from being self-reliant and doing something outside the norm.

“Nowadays, everybody seems to be doing the same thing: getting a university degree, getting a job and sitting behind a desk,” she says. “I’m going to see where life takes me and go with the flow.”

Rutherford completed her round-the-world trip on Jan. 20, 155 days after she set out in a Shark ultralight aircraft from her native Belgium (her mother is Belgian, and her father is British).

With only 150 hours of flight time in her logbook when she departed Europe on the record-breaking circumnavigation, having the gumption to attempt a solo round-the-world flight certainly sets her apart from the average teenager. Having actually accomplished her ambitious goal makes her even more extraordinary.

That doesn’t mean the trip was easy. Only flying VFR sometimes led to long delays, such as a month spent in Nome, AK.

“Nowadays, everybody seems to be doing the same thing. I’m going to see where life takes me and go with the flow. ”


“I was nervous on long water legs, such as over the Atlantic and Pacific,” she admits. “Also, when I was out of radio contact.” She recalls her uneasiness flying over the vast uninhabited expanses of Siberia. “There’s just nothing there.”

Rutherford plans on going to college in the fall, although she’s not sure where yet, and is planning on studying either electrical engineering or computer science. Before that, however, she is planning on getting her instrument and commercial ratings. On top of her list for possible careers? “I 100% want to be an astronaut.”

Inspiring students – particularly girls – to follow their dreams is a high priority for Rutherford, who enjoys speaking to students and encouraging them to reach for the skies.

“I tell them that I am still learning, too. Sometimes we try and don’t always succeed, but if we get back up and keep pushing, you’re bound to succeed at some point.”

Rutherford has received lots of positive feedback from students who have been inspired by her record flight. “It’s really exciting to see that I can have a positive effect,” she says.

Zara Rutherford, who hails from a family of aviators, holds FAA and UK private pilot licenses, plus Slovakian and French microlight licenses. She is scheduled to speak at the upcoming 2022 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition.

Learn more about Zara at

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