Once is enough for 19-year-old woman about to break flight record

2 minute read

Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, gestures as she speaks during a conference at a Belgian ambassador's residence in Jakarta, Indonesia, December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

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EGELSBACH, Germany, Jan 19 (Reuters) - As 19-year-old pilot Zara Rutherford nears the end of her record-breaking, around-the-world odyssey, she is not sure she would attempt the feat again.

The British-Belgian teenager landed in the German village of Egelsbach on Wednesday, one stop short of completing a journey that will make her the youngest woman ever to fly solo around the globe.

"I wouldn't do it again. There's been amazing moments, but then there's been moments where I had fear for my life," Rutherford told reporters, when asked if she would like to repeat the voyage.

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Flying conditions on the pit-stop to Egelsbach were a reminder of the challenges. Strong headwinds, turbulence and rain made it a longer flight than she had hoped.

"I was hoping it would take about an hour and a half, but in the end, it took about two hours and 15 minutes."

If the weather allows her to return to her home country, Belgium, on Thursday, Rutherford will take over the title held by Shaesta Wais, who became the youngest woman to fly solo round the world at the age of 30 in 2017.

The youngest male record holder, Mason Andrews, was 18 years old when he made the journey in 2018.

In August, Rutherford took off from Flanders Airport in Belgium on her 51,000 km (32,000 mile) journey, spanning five continents and 52 countries. read more

To meet the criteria for a round-the-world flight, Rutherford picked two points opposite each other on the globe: Jambi in Indonesia and the Colombian town of Tumaco.

"Flying over an active volcano in Iceland was beautiful," she said, when asked about some of the favourite parts of her journey. "And then landing at JFK in New York City."

Apart from entering the record book, the teenager said she hoped her voyage would encourage women to study and work in science and technology, and spark girls' interest in aviation.

"Growing up, I didn't see many other female pilots. I always said it was very discouraging," Rutherford said.

Rutherford, whose parents are both pilots, will start university in September, with the dream of becoming an astronaut.

"I'm going to study engineering. Probably in the UK or the U.S. I'm receiving my results in a few months," she said.

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Reporting by Frank Simon and Andreas Buerger; Writing by Zuzanna Szymanska and Natasa Bansagi, Editing by Miranda Murray and Mike Collett-White

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