Zara Rutherford with a Shark Ultralight plane at Popham Airfield in Winchester, Hampshire (Steve Parsons/PA)
A 19-year-old student has announced her gap year project – aiming to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.
Zara Rutherford, who has British and Belgian nationality, will set off from her home city of Brussels next month for the circumnavigation, which is set to take her up to three months.
The teenager, who studied at St Swithun’s School, WinchesterHampshire is following in the footsteps of her parents, who are both pilots.
Announcing the record bid at Popham Airfield near Winchester, she told the PA news agency: “The greatest challenge will be the remote places like northern Russia or Greenland – there aren’t many people who live there so if anything were to go wrong I would be in a bit of an awkward situation.
“I’ve got a bit of nerves and excitement, sometimes both.”
She added: “My entire family are pilots so I have been flying my entire life and I started formal training when I was 14 and I got my licence last year.
“My parents are completely on board; my mum took some convincing but she got there, my dad is very supportive and is helping with the logistics.”
Miss Rutherford will be flying a Shark Ultralight, the world’s fastest light sport aircraft, for the self-funded record attempt.
The spare seat has been removed to accommodate an extra fuel tank and to avoid any questions about another person flying with her.
The current female record holder is American Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 at the time of her circumnavigation in 2017, while the youngest male record-holder was 18 years old.
Miss Rutherford, who intends to study computer science or electrical engineering and whose ambition is to become an astronaut, said: “At first, I was planning to fly around the world as an adventure during my gap year, not realising I would become the youngest woman to do so if I achieved it.
“It was only when I started researching more that I noticed I could be the first Belgian and the youngest woman to solo circumnavigate the globe.
“I’m hoping to get more girls interested in aviation.”
The route will take her across the Atlantic, over Greenland, Canada and South America, up to Alaska, then crossing to Russia and Indonesia before returning to Europe.
She said: “The route has been chosen to fulfil Guinness World Records’ requirements to be an ‘around the world flight’.
“The route currently takes in 52 countries and crosses the Equator twice.
“I am incredibly excited by this route and can’t wait. There will be many challenges on the way but experiencing all these cultures, and their food, will be amazing and worth it.
“I am most looking forward to South America and Greenland.”
Miss Rutherford intends to start her attempt on August 11.