Teenage pilot begins solo round-world record bid

"It's a dream I've had my entire life, to fly a plane around the world. It was just a crazy idea and I always thought it would impossible. But then I decided if I didn't tell anyone about it, then it's never going to happen.” - Zara Rutherford, pilot

At just 19 years old, Zara Rutherford hopes to become the youngest woman ever to fly solo around the world.

The British-Belgium pilot took off from Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in western Belgium on August 18th, aboard her Shark ultralight, the world's fastest microlight aircraft.

Her plan is to reach 52 countries in three months and snag the world record.

She’ll be stopping in Greenland, China and Nicaragua to name a few, and staying with local families and in hotels.

"So on average I fly about five hours a day and then it consists of three days of flying and then one break, one rest day."

"Fatigue is definitely a factor but I'm making sure that I'm always well-rested. And then there are more logistical complications, weather-wise, that could delay some days, but I'm looking foward to it and I've got a great team supporting me."

Her team, includes her parents Beatrice and Sam who are also both pilots.

BEATRICE: "…When she first told me about it, my heart skipped a beat. It took me a bit of time to digest. And now I'm so proud and fully, fully behind her. But as I said, mixed feelings."

SAM: "Yeah, it's exciting. It's really exciting. I see the risks, I understand them. So does she but I'm really proud of what she's doing, not just for herself, but also in this in a bid to level the playing field for women getting into STEM and aviation. So I think it's fantastic."

Growing up, Zara was discouraged by the lack of female pilots or female computer scientists she saw in the media.

She hopes her voyage may change that for other young girls:

“With the media attention that I've been getting, I'm hoping to encourage girls and women to hopefully also go into aviation and STEM, so Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics."

The current female title-holder, Shaesta Wais, flew solo around the world at 30 years old.

The youngest male record holder, Mason Andrews, was 18 when he made the journey.

For 19-year-old Zara, the world record is just one of many big dreams.

"I'm hoping to go to university next year to study either computer science or electrical engineering. And then after that, a huge dream of mine is to become an astronaut. So we'll see how that goes. But that would be amazing."

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