Teenage pilot Zara Rutherford landed in Kortrijk, Belgium Thursday to officially become the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.
The Belgian-British 19-year-old landed her single-seat Shark ultralight aircraft to cheers and honking horns from a crowd that had gathered to welcome her home. Rutherford originally embarked from Kortrijk on August 18 – 155 days ago.
As she stepped from the cockpit, she shared a hug with her parents and brother and was presented with framed copies of a certificate from the Guiness Book of World Records certifying her accomplishment.
The 51,000-kilometer east-to-west journey took her across 52 countries and five continents. To meet the criteria for a round-the-world flight, Rutherford touched two points opposite each other on the globe: Jambi in Indonesia and Tumaco in Colombia.
The trip was all the more challenging as she flew without the aid of flight instruments or a pressurized cabin.
Rutherford told reporters the last leg of her journey – from a small airstrip near Frankfurt, Germany, where she landed Wednesday, to the Kortrijk airstrip – had been a bit tricky because of rain and snow. Rutherford said she had to wiggle in some valleys and wait for a while for the snow to clear.
But Rutherford said she was glad to be home and was looking forward to her favorite sandwich from a local shop.
Rutherford had said her big goal is to use this experience to encourage other young women to go into flying or study science, technology and mathematics “and other fields they might not have thought about.
She plans to go to college next September in either Britain or the United States to study engineering.
Rutherford broke the record set by American aviator Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she set the previous record for the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo in 2017.
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.