Teen is youngest woman to fly around the world solo

American Hero

BRUSSELS (NewsNation Now) — A 19-year-old pilot who set a world record as the youngest woman to fly solo around the world says the journey taught her that she is capable for doing more than she thinks — knowledge she says applies to everyone.

“When you’re forced out of the comfort zone, you kind of have to improvise,” Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford said on “NewsNation Prime.” “You have to deal with all these things. And then realizing that I could be a much more confident person.”

Rutherford landed in western Belgium on Thursday — 155 days after she departed.

In her trek of more than 28,000 nautical miles, she stopped over in five continents and visited 41 nations.

“I always dreamt of flying around the world, but I never thought it’d be possible,” Rutherford said. “So I kind of never really thought much about it. Because I always assumed it’d be too expensive, too dangerous, too complicated.”

With a one-year break before college, she decided to go for it.

“I’m doing this 100%,” Rutherford said. “I’m going to put my all into it. I’m going to find sponsorship, whatever happens, I’m going to make it work. And thankfully had my parents, like, supporting me throughout and saying, you know, ‘Zara we are 100% behind this.'”

Rutherford’s flight saw her steer clear of wildfires in California, deal with biting cold over Russia and narrowly avoid North Korean airspace. She flew by Visual Flight Rules, basically going on sight only, often slowing down progress when more sophisticated systems could have led her through clouds and fog.

She said one of the highlights of the trip was was flying over a volcano in Iceland. 

“Seeing the crater and seeing the lava bubbling up and then, like, flowing down was incredible,” Rutherford said.

Sometimes she feared for her life, and at other times she simply yearned for the simple comforts of home. Flying runs in her blood since both her parents are pilots and she has been traveling in small planes since she was 6. At 14, she started flying herself.

Rutherford said her next goal is to finish college, She is considering an degree in engineering.

After that, she wants to go even higher.

“A dream of mine is to become an astronaut. That’d be the ultimate challenge,” Rutherford said.

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