Flying Zolo: Zara Rutherford’s Solo Flight


via Public Domain Pictures

An airplane flying in the sky

At just 19 years of age, the young Belgium-British pilot, Zara Rutherford, aims to be the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo. She took off in early August and will complete her journey by early November. The flight will take her on a 32,000-mile flight over five continents and west through the United Kingdom, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, the United States, and Latin America to Columbia. She will make her way to Alaska, travel through Russia, China, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East before returning to Belgium. If she succeeds, she will overtake Shaesta Waiz’s world record to become the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe.

Zara has been in the cockpit her whole life. Her mother is a recreational pilot, and her father is a professional one. Over 80 hours of flight logged and countless more in the future, she received her pilot’s license in 2020. To self-fund her two-month journey, Zara Rutherford has sold her car and sought out different sponsors. Also concerned about the environmental impact of her trip, she plans to spend $710 on tree projects to compensate for her carbon footprint. Her small, single-engine Shark Ultralight plane is customized for her needs and includes a radio, satellite communications, and an additional fuel tank. Rutherford has faced challenges such as bad weather, being forced to fly low over the ocean, and failing radio contact. On the plus side, the bad weather gifted her some time in Jacksonville, Florida, where she had the chance to meet Shaesta Waiz. She says she deals with stress by listening to podcasts. 

While attaining a world record is an impressive feat, Rutherford’s principal mission is to inspire others and discard stereotypes. She said, “Growing up, I was really into aviation, science, tech, engineering, and mathematics. But I never saw any other girls or women in those fields. I mean, a couple here and there. But they were quite rare.” So, with this flight, she hopes to encourage and motivate other girls and young women to pursue their dreams and reduce the gender gap in STEM. Rutherford is raising awareness by supporting two charities on her trip. One foundation is Girls Who Code, which supports women entering computer science. The other is Dreams Soar, a non-profit organization founded by Waiz to assist women entering STEM fields. Fans and supporters of the young and ambitious Zara Rutherford can watch her route in real-time on her website, Fly Zolo.