Zara, Teen on a Solo Round-the-World Microlight Journey, to Stop in Singapore |

Zara Rutherford

While most of us dream of flying around the world, few even think of doing it solo, and even less think of doing it in a microlight. This is what Belgian-British teen Zara Rutherford wants to achieve – at 19 years old, she intends to smash the current world records as the youngest woman to fly around the world. 

The current record is set by a then 30-year old American Shaestra Wai, and the current record for youngest person to fly around the world solo belongs to 18-year-old Mason Andrews.

She is due to touch down in Singapore in mid December at Seletar Airport, after crossing her halfway mark. She’s since flown from her home in Belgium to Canada, the USA, and South America. She’s currently making her way south towards Singapore from Russia, and will fly back to Belgium via India and the Middle East.

Zara’s journey

Starting from Belgium on August 18, Zara aims to cover 52 countries, flying over 51,000 kilometres and hugging the coastlines as much as possible since she’ll be flying in a Shark Aero ultralight plane. The high performance plane, which can reach speeds of up to 300km/h, has been specially modified to accommodate an extra fuel tank for the long distances.

Her route includes the UK and Greenland before hitting the Canadian and American east coast before reaching Colombia. She’ll then fly north towards Alaska and Russia before making her way along the coast down to Korea and then to Indonesia.

To qualify for the Guinness World Record, people circumnavigating the globe to pass through two approximate antipodal points (ie. two locations on opposite geographical sides of the Earth). Zara chose Tumaco, Colombia and Jambi, Indonesia as the two points, but changed them to Quibdó and Jakarta due to bad weather.

Since her only backup is her support crew in Belgium, the journey was planned carefully, including setting up the necessary authorisations to fly into many different national airspaces in advance. Her aerial odyssey can be followed on a live tracker on Zara’s website,, and on her TikTok page.

Bumpy moments

Zara has been enjoying the scenery from above, which includes everything from glaciers to volcanoes. Apart from a satellite telephone and a radio to communicate with air traffic control, she only has her music and her podcasts to keep her company.

She flew over an erupting volcano in Iceland, adding that the flight did become “very bumpy” at one point. During her journey from Iceland to Greenland, she lost radio contact 20 minutes into her flight, and had to resort to texting her father for the weather report. “Because after a certain point, you have to keep going — you don’t have enough fuel to get back,” she says. 

She also felt Mexico’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake. At New Mexico, her airspeed indicator was not functioning properly, but she managed to arrive in Los Angeles safely.

Being in a small aircraft, weather is a big factor, especially at the equator where she had close calls with thunderstorms. While in Quibdo – the world’s rainiest city – she was grounded for two days due to rain. It may also be tricky weather-wise around Indonesia and Singapore. She was also grounded for nearly a month in Alaska before making her way safely across the Bering Straits to Russia. 

She recently left Khabarovsk, Russia and is making her way south to warmer weather.

Who is Zara?

Zara began training for her pilot licence at the age of 14, having acquired her passion for flying from her British father who is a former RAF pilot stationed in Belgium. She holds private pilot and microlight licences, but as she isn’t instrument-rated, she has to do the entire flight using visual flight rules.

Zara hopes that her record attempt will encourage more girls and young women to become interested in aviation and STEM. “Only 5% of commercial pilots and 15% of computer scientists are women. In both areas – aviation and STEM – the gender gap is huge,” says Zara, and she hopes to change that perception. 

She embarked on her flight just after completing her A-Levels in Mathematics, Economics, and Physics and hopes to pursue computer science or electrical engineering at university to fulfill her dream of becoming an astronaut. After all, why reach for the sky when you can shoot for the stars?