Speed Reads

the sky's the limit

This teen pilot wants to be the youngest woman to fly solo around the world

Zara Rutherford hopes that her upcoming air adventure serves two purposes — she wants to break a world record while showing girls that the sky's the limit when it comes to a career.

On August 11, the 19-year-old from Belgium plans to set off on a 32,000-mile trip, aiming to become the youngest woman to ever fly solo around the world; the record is now held by Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she circumnavigated the globe in 2017. Rutherford will be flying in a Shark ultralight aircraft, and it could take three months to complete her journey, which will take her across 52 countries.

"The greatest challenge will be the remote places like northern Russia or Greenland — there aren't many people who live there so if anything were to go wrong I would be in a bit of an awkward situation," Rutherford told PA Media. "I've got a bit of nerves and excitement, sometimes both."

Both of Rutherford's parents are pilots, and she got her license in 2020. Two of her passions are flying and computer science, and she said when she was younger, she really didn't see too many women in those fields. This was "quite discouraging," Rutherford said, and it is her desire to "inspire other girls to try to beat my record and then go and start competing with the boys."