Speed Reads

making amelia earhart proud

Zara Rutherford becomes youngest woman to fly around the world solo

Pilot Zara Rutherford made history on Thursday when she landed at Belgium's Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport.

This was the final stop for Rutherford, 19, on her 32,300-mile journey to 41 different countries. She completed her epic journey in 155 days, and became the youngest woman to fly around the world solo. The previous record was set in 2017 by 30-year-old Shaesta Waiz.

Going on such a grand voyage "takes a lot of time, patience, a lot of work, but it is incredible," Rutherford told reporters.

Rutherford started her adventure on Aug. 18, 2021, with the goal of circumnavigating the globe in three months. It wasn't an easy experience — due to "visa and weather issues," she was held up for a month in Alaska and another month in Russia; she was denied permission to fly over China; and her ultralight aircraft was almost hit by lightning near the equator. But Rutherford was also able to take in incredible views of landmarks and landscapes from the air, and spend time in places she'll likely never see again, like Siberia. 

It's Rutherford's dream that "in the future, if a girl wants to go into aviation or wants to go into engineering, it's not special," she told NPR. "It's just like, 'Oh, cool, just another person who's doing a cool thing with her life.' But it doesn't matter what gender they are."