19-year-old Belgian to take off on possible record-breaking solo flight today

19-year-old Belgian to take off on possible record-breaking solo flight today
Zara Rutherford. Credit: Belga

A 19-year-old with British-Belgian nationality will attempt to become the youngest woman - and the first Belgian - to fly around the world solo when she sets off on Wednesday.

Zara Rutherford, who has been flying since she was 14, was due to set off on 11 August but was delayed at the last minute to install an improved camera system in and around the plane "to get as much high-quality footage as possible."

The trip is expected to take around 250 hours of flying time to complete, or roughly three months in total, considering stops of one or two nights along the route.

Speaking to CNN, Rutherford said that, despite having this dream for a long time, it had always seemed unrealistic.

"When I decided to take a year out before I go to university, I realised, I've got all this time -- I might as well do something crazy with it," she said.

Following Guinness World Record requirements, the 32,000-mile route will cross the equator twice, once at Jambi, Indonesia and another on the other side of the world in Tumaco, Colombia.

The proposed route. Credit: flyzolo.com

The trip will cover 52 countries, starting from Belgium and heading towards Germany, then Austria. She will have to clearly see where she is going at all times to keep on her strict route, meaning the trip will only be possible in fair weather conditions and during the day.

During her stops, Rutherford plans to meet with local youths to bring more visibility to aviation and science, specifically for young girls.

"My aim is to promote flying and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) opportunities for girls/young women," Rutherford explained. "I will also be choosing charities in these areas, with my partners, for whom I can raise awareness."

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Officially a pilot since 2020, Rutherford will be flying a Shark Aero ultralight aircraft, a small two-seat tandem aircraft with a "first-class comfortable cockpit interior," according to Rutherford.

The trip will be self-funded, with Rutherford selling her car and seeking sponsors to help make it happen. To offset her carbon footprint, the pilot said she would spend €600 on tree-planting projects.

If successful, Rutherford will knock Shaesta Waiz - the 30-year-old American who beat the challenge in 2017 - out of the spot as the youngest woman to complete the trip.

Those interested in her trip will be able to keep track of her progress on her social media and website, which includes an update on where she will be stopping.

"Please come and see me if I stop nearby," Rutherford added on her latest Instagram post.

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