Teen pilot becomes youngest woman to fly solo around the world | News | DW | 20.01.2022

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Teen pilot becomes youngest woman to fly solo around the world

A 19-year-old has become the youngest woman to complete a round-the-world journey by plane on her own. She completed the trip in five months despite several obstacles.

Watch video 02:28

Teen pilot makes record-breaking solo flight

British-Belgian teenager Zara Rutherford ended her five-month trip flying around the world on Thursday, becoming the youngest woman to complete the feat solo.

The 19-year-old landed at the Belgian Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport on Thursday after touching down in 30 countries on five continents since her August 18 departure.

She traveled 51,000 kilometers (32,000 miles) in her Shark ultralight single-propeller aircraft.

"It's really just crazy. I haven't quite processed it," Rutherford told reporters after landing.

Watch video 04:00

Solo around the world: 19-year-old Zara Rutherford

Highs and lows

"It's very strange being back here," Rutherford said before adding that, after her world tour, she would "like to do nothing next week."

Rutherford's parents are both pilots, with her father having flown for the British air force. She fielded questions in English, French and Dutch.

"There's been amazing moments, but then there's been moments where I feared for my life," she said, listing New York City, an active volcano and Iceland as examples of her favorite places to fly over.

The frozen expanse of Russia's Siberia was the "scariest" part of the journey.

"I'd be going hundreds and hundreds of kilometers without seeing anything human — I mean no electricity cables, no roads, no people — and I thought 'if the engine stopped now, I'd have a really big problem,'" she said.

Not always easy flying

Rutherford's journey included several bumps along the way. Her aircraft limited her to flying during the day. She was also forced to make several diverted or hasty landings.

Watch video 03:40

'The plane itself has a parachute,' teen pilot Zara Rutherford tells DW 

In one instance, she had to touch down a short distance from Dubai to avoid a thunderstorm.

A winter storm in eastern Russian also kept her grounded for some three weeks. But the locals in the town of Ayan were "very willing to help with anything I might need," she said.

In order to count as a round-the-world flight, the pilot had to touch down at two points on opposite sides of the planet. For Rutherford, these were Jambi in Indonesia and Tumaco in Colombia.

ab/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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