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Teenager set to become youngest woman to fly solo around the world

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 4 days ago Max Stephens
Zara Rutherford photographed at Popham Airfield with her microlight plane in 2021, shortly before embarking on her global odyssey - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph © Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph Zara Rutherford photographed at Popham Airfield with her microlight plane in 2021, shortly before embarking on her global odyssey - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

A 19-year-old is set to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world with only her Spotify playlist and podcasts for company.

Zara Rutherford embarked on her record-breaking attempt during her gap year last August, taking flight in a Shark microlight plane that can remain airborne for 12 hours at a time.

The Anglo-Belgian teenager has toured 41 countries and logged up to 250 hours of flying time during her odyssey.

When she touches down in Belgium on Monday, she will become the holder of two world records – the youngest woman to fly solo around the world and the youngest person to do it in a microlight plane.

The teenager, who only had 150 hours of flying time before the attempt, said she fills the time during the less taxing flights with podcasts and her Spotify pop music playlist.

“Usually though, I do focus on flying. It’s not often that I can just fully relax,” she told The Times.

Sam Rutherford, Zara’s father and a former Flight Commander with the British Army Air Corps, told The Telegraph that his daughter received a rapturous welcome from girls and young women in countries as disparate as Russia, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

He said: “It has been an amazing experience, it has very much been a journey of discovery in terms of flying around the world.

“She has proven herself to be a remarkably competent aviator, her ability to think ‘I am not happy with this I am going to land’, which she has done a lot, is fantastic. 

“She has taken [the plane] harder than anybody has ever taken a Shark microlight.”

Asked how she intends to unwind after the achievement, Mr Rutherford said: “A pizza at home is fairly high on the list.”

Her father also revealed the Department of Education intends to champion Zara as an ambassador for STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) over her trail-blazing efforts to encourage young women and girls into aviation.

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