Belgian-British pilot Zara Ruthford became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world at the age of 19.
Ruthford completed a 14-country journey spanning over 52,000 kilometers after she landed at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in western Belgium on Jan. 20.
Ruthford broke the record previously held by American Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she flew around the world unaccompanied in 2017.
Ruthford also became the first woman to circumnavigate the world in a microlight aircraft and the first Belgian to fly around the world alone.
Ruthford took off last August in her two-seater Shark Aero, one of the fastest lightweight aircraft in the world, expecting the round-the-world trip to take about only three months, but it was pushed back by two months due to visa issues and adverse weather conditions.
“I’d say the hardest part was flying over Siberia, because it was just extremely cold. It was minus 35 degrees on the ground… If the engine were then to stop, I’m hours away from rescue and I don’t know how long I could survive,” Ruthford told reporters.
Ruthford was also forced to make an unscheduled landing in Redding, California due wildfires causing poor visibility.
Ruthford also cancelled a stop in China after the Chinese government imposed a change of rules that meant she would have had to quarantine.
Ruthford, whose parents are pilots, began learning how to fly at the age of 14 and got her license in 2020.
Ruthford said that she hoped her journey would encourage more girls and women to take up science and engineering and to consider a career in aviation.
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