A teenage pilot made history after flying solo around the world in an ultralight aircraft. 19-year-old Zara Rutherford landed safely in the Belgian city of Kortrijk on Thursday (January 20), after a five-month, 32,000-mile trip, making her the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe by herself.
“It will be very strange to not have to fly every single day anymore or try to fly every single day anymore,” she said at a news conference. “I’m just happy to finally also be in the same spot for a few months.”
Her journey was not easy, as numerous issues put her two months behind schedule. She spent a month stranded in Alaska after visa issues and stormy weather grounded her Shark ultralight aircraft. She was also forced to spend 41 days stuck in Russia due to inclement weather.
“The hardest part was flying over Siberia – it was extremely cold, and if the engine was to stall, I’d be hours away from rescue. I’m not sure I would have survived,” she said.
Rutherford also had to alter her planned route after she was denied permission to fly through Chinese airspace and almost ended up crossing into North Korean airspace.
“Do I head back to Russia?” she said she asked herself. “Do I cut into North Korean airspace and risk having some trouble with their military?”
Despite all the issues, Rutherford completed her journey and broke two Guinness World Records in the process. She is the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world by herself and is the first woman to complete the feat in a microlight aircraft.