Zara just completing an epic 41-country journey spanning over 52,000 kilometers (32,300 miles), and broke two Guinness World Records in the process.
“I made it,” Rutherford, exclaimed as she received a rapturous welcome on her arrival.
You can still view the ‘live’ feeds on her FB page FlyZolo.
Not only has she beaten the record held by American Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she circumnavigated the globe unaccompanied in 2017, Rutherford also now holds the title for the first woman to circumnavigate the world in a microlight aircraft.
She is also the first Belgian to fly around the world alone.
What was planned as a 3 month flight, was beset with weather issues, including month-long delays in both Alaska and Russia due to “visa and weather issues,” pushing her schedule back eight weeks.
“I would say the hardest part was definitely flying over Siberia — it was extremely cold. It was minus 35 degrees Celsius on the ground,” Rutherford said during a press conference after she landed this morning in Belgium.
“If the engine were to stall, I’d be hours away from rescue and I don’t know how long I could have survived for.”
She was also forced to make an unscheduled landing in Redding, California due to poor visibility as a result of the wildfires in the Seattle area and was later denied permission to fly over China.
“I was hoping to complete it by Christmas but I guess that’s not happening anymore,” Rutherford told reporters at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul, South Korea after arriving from Vladivostok on December 13. “But it’s an adventure.”
Unfortunately while she has landed in interesting destinations, such as Canada, US, Columbia, Singapore, Egypt and Greece, along with Russia and South Korea, Rutherford has been unable to explore any of them on land due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Now home in Belgium, we hope Zara catches up on some badly need sleep for a few days, gets accepted to the University of her choice and that she continues to inspire young girls around the world that they can achieve their goals and to look toward STEM fields of study.
Two Official Guinness World Records broken:
- The youngest person to circumnavigate by aircraft solo (female) is 19 years 199 days, achieved by Zara Rutherford (Belgium, b. 5 July 2002), on 20 January 2022
- The youngest person to circumnavigate solo by microlight is 19 years 199 days, achieved by Zara Rutherford (Belgium, b. 5 July 2002), on 20 January 2022
*Guinness World Record requirements: Zara had to include one pair of antipodals (points diametrically perfectly opposite to each other on the globe). On 3rd September 2021 she visited the first antipodal: Quibdo, Colombia (the wettest city on Earth). On 21st December she visited the second antipodal: Jakarta, Indonesia.
*Zara is also the first Belgian 🇹🇩 to have circumnavigated the world flying solo.
The aircraft she flew was a Shark.aero, one of the fastest ultralight aircraft in the world (up to 300 km/h), designed with help of Czech engineers, produced in Slovakia.
Here are some of Zara’s circumnaviation Facts and Figures:
Total distance: 52,080.3 km (28,121 nautical miles)
Total time in the air: 260 hours
Takeoffs and landings: 71 (69 stops, including 10 diversions to an airfield other than planned; 2 returns to the same airfield)
Longest flight: 2000 km (1080 nautical miles)
Longest flight over water: 1861 km (1005 nautical miles)
Highest altitude: 4200 meters (13,800 ft), over Greenland
Continents visited: 5
Countries visited: 41
Highest temperature in flight: +36°C (Colombia)
Lowest temperature in flight: -25°C (Ayan, Siberia, Russia), dropping to -35°C at night
*Zara received advice from experienced pilots at all times. She was in contact with the flight operations team through the Iridium Communications satellite system and via YB Tracking. She had a personal locator beacon (PLB) with satellite connection, survival suit and a life-raft in case of landing in water. The Shark Aero is equipped with an integrated parachute.
She also received invaluable help from hundreds of people in all locations along her route, especially from her sponsors, and she could also get assistance from her ground team based in Europe.