( ENSPIRE Feature ) Zara Rutherford, 19 Years Old Aspiring to Fly Around The Globe, Solo, Promoting STEM for Young Women & Girls
ENSPIRE Contributor: Komal Javaid
In an attempt to be the youngest woman to fly solo worldwide, Zara Rutherford, a 19-year-old, is hoping her flight will get more girls and young women worldwide interested in STEM and aviation. She also supports two non-profits that encourage girls and young women into Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Her venture is self-funded, so Zara needs more sponsors and has even auctioned her beloved car on eBay Nissan Qashqai 2014 FlyZolo edition | eBay.
Zara Rutherford was in the cockpit of a light plane within months of birth. Since the age of six, she has also traveled in small planes to far-flung places such as Maputo, Mozambique. In addition, she was skydiving at 11 and actually flying a plane at 14. With an English father and a Belgian mother (both pilots), she holds dual nationality. Zara completed her education in Belgium and England, and at 14 years old, while in England, she trained to get a pilot’s license. Zara Rutherford will begin her journey starting from her home city of Brussels. In total, her journey around the world is going to take approximately three months.
ENSPIRE talked to Zara Rutherford about her plans for flying around the world.
Why are you doing this?
“At first, I was planning to fly around the world as an adventure during my gap year,
not realizing I would become the youngest woman to do so if I achieved it. When I started researching more, 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. With this in mind, I am supporting two non-profits that encourage girls and young women into Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The nonprofits are Dreams Soar and Girls Who Code. Dreams Soar aims to inspire women and girls to achieve their dreams and enter STEM fields of study and careers. Girls Who Code aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science by equipping young women with the necessary computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities.”
What are you doing in the future?
I’m planning on studying Computer Science or Electric Engineering at university as I
dream of one day going into space. I will also keep the ferry flying with my family.
What experience do you have at this moment?
“I currently have a French Microlight Licence. I have about 80 hours logged, but
hundreds more unlogged where I was flying with my family in and around Europe
and Africa. Next year, after my journey, I will get my Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)
and instrument rating. This way, I can continue to do ferry flights.”
What is your earliest memory of flying?
“When I was six years old, we flew a lot in Southern Africa, particularly Namibia,
Zimbabwe, and Botswana, I remember the views being beautiful and the number of
animals I had seen (many zebras and giraffes).”
Where are you in your preparations?
“I’ve been flying a lot, especially cross-country, to prepare. My training includes both
instrument and night flying in case of an emergency. As well as local
(short) navigation flights, I have also helped ferry small planes from Canada to the
THESE TRIPS WERE BENEFICIAL FOR the USA, and from the USA to Jordan (including across the Atlantic). I have already got great partners for my permits for Asia and
South America and Russia. China will be trickier to get permits, but I am confident in
my team to be able to get them.”
What is the route?
“The route has been chosen to fulfill Guinness World Records’ requirements to be an
‘around the world flight.’ The route currently takes 52 countries and crosses the
equator twice to satisfy. 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
Details about professional route planning?
“The family company moves small airplanes around the world – such as my last
trip when we had an Indian client who had bought a plane in Texas but needed it in
India. As such, we are very experienced in all the complexities of planning a route
such as mine.”
How long will it take?
“The journey should take two to three months, but it is very dependent on weather. I
am flying Visual Flight Rules (VFR) or solely by visual reference when possible. So I
need to make sure I won’t be flying in clouds or at night. I should accumulate around
250 hours of flying time. If I achieve this, I will also become the youngest
person (man or woman) to circumnavigate the globe in a microlight.”
Flight training details?
“I have been learning to fly since I was very small, but only started formal flying
lessons (and got my first license) in 2020. I have had lessons in the UK, Belgium, and the US in a variety of different small airplanes.”
“I have chosen an aircraft with an exemplary safety record, including options for
when/if anything goes wrong. I am receiving special training for problems both in the
air and on the ground. I will also be following a ‘Dunker’ course–how to safely get
out of an aircraft that has ditched in the water.”
What airplane are you going to fly?
“A Shark ultralight, the world’s fastest microlight aircraft. It is high-speed (300km/h), has a very long-range, is very safe, and is extremely
capable. Mine has been modified with an extended range to 1800nm (3500km),
satellite communications. I would particularly like to thank Shark for their loan of
such a beautiful machine”.
Are you doing any STEM or other related events?
“I am doing events with Girls Who Code and Dreams Soar whilst on my journey, and
then more afterward.”
Who will meet you and where will you stay during stops?
“I hope to meet the local schools at every stop, particularly the young girls. I also hope to stay with a local family each time, as this is a fantastic way to understand
where I am (and with whom). It will make the entire experience much richer.”
How do your parents feel about this trip?
“Both my parents are pilots, so they strongly support me. My father is very
enthusiastic and helping me with the logistics of it all. My mother is also very excited
but more cautious, but I was able to convince her.”
Who is the current record holder?
“Shaesta Waiz is the current female record holder; she was 30 years old at the time
of her circumnavigation. The youngest male record holder (Mason Andrews) was 18
years old and five months old at the time of his journey. The gap in ages between
the men and the women is huge and shows the disparity in the number of male and
Tell us about your sneaker selling business.
“When I was 16, I found out about ‘sneaker reselling,’ which involves buying minimal sneakers from, e.g., Nike or Adidas, and once they sell out, you can resell them
for more. In this way, I was able to make a bit of money and soon found myself to
really enjoy everything that was sneaker related.”
How are you paying for it?
“It’s important for me and my message that the whole venture is entirely self-funded
(my family agrees!). I already have some wonderful sponsors, but I need more. I am
selling my car as well–that will help pay for about five countries! It’s not easy, but if
it were easy, it would have no value.”
Zara Rutherford represents the youth and her story will hopefully encourage younger people to achieve similar goals. At the same time, she represents women in the aviation field who are typically underrepresented. Her story is empowering and can encourage other women to chase their dreams in a field that is normally dominated by men. Zara Rutherford aims to promote flying and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) opportunities for girls/young women. She will start her journey in August 2021 and from there she will fly around the world to 52 countries and 5 continents. A huge accomplishment in the making especially for someone so young.
You can find out more about Zara Rutherford and her journey on her official website here