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After 155 days, 19-year-old pilot becomes youngest woman to fly around the world

Belgium-British teenage pilot Zara Rutherford smiles inside the cockpit after landing her Shark ultralight plane at the Kortrijk airport in Kortrijk, Belgium. (CREDIT: Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

A 19-year-old pilot has completed her 155-day solo journey around the globe, becoming the youngest female in history to circumnavigate the Earth.

Zara Rutherford, who has dual citizenship in the U.K. and Belgium, touched down at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in western Belgium Thursday. According to the BBC, her final descent was escorted by four planes from the Belgian Red Devils aerobatic display team.


Rutherford's journey took about two months longer than she hoped. According to the BBC, she spent about a month in Nome, Alaska, and another 41 days in Russia.


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CNN reports that she was also forced to make an unscheduled landing in California due to poor visibility from Seattle-area wildfires and was denied permission to fly over China.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic kept her from sightseeing on the ground for much of her trip, Rutherford is proud of her accomplishment.

"I'm looking forward to telling people about my experiences and encouraging people to do something crazy with your life," she said, according to the BBC.


According to The Associated Press, Rutherford bested the record set by 30-year-old American aviator Shaesta Waiz in 2017. Rutherford is about a year older than Travis Ludlow, the 18-year-old pilot from the U.K. who set the overall record last year.

Rutherford told reporters that she hoped her mission would expand the visibility of women in aviation.

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