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Teenager, 19, becomes youngest woman to fly around the world solo

(Associated Press photo/Michael Probst)

Story at a glance

  • Zara Rutherford, a Belgian-British 19-year-old, has become the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.
  • She first embarked on her cross-world flight on Aug. 18, 2021.
  • The title was previously held by American aviator Shaesta Waiz, who set the record in 2017 when she was 30.

Teenage pilot Zara Rutherford has become the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.  

Rutherford, a Belgian-British 19-year-old, landed in Kortrijk, Belgium on Thursday, 155 days after she embarked on her cross-world flight on Aug. 18, 2021. Her flight took her to five continents and 41 countries. 

“The people were incredible, everywhere,” Rutherford told The Associated Press. 


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Rutherford’s historic flight was originally estimated to take three months, however, inclement weather and visa issues put her behind about two months. 

The title was previously held by American aviator Shaesta Waiz, who set the record in 2017 when she was 30. The men’s title is held by Britain’s Travis Ludlow, who set the record in 2020 at the age of 18.  

Rutherford hopes her accomplishment will inspire more women to become pilots.    

“Growing up, I didn’t see many other female pilots. I always thought that was really discouraging,” Rutherford told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “So I’m hoping to encourage more girls to go into aviation and kind of show a friendly face, so that if a girl likes aviation and she sees me, she knows she’s not the only one.”  


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