EGELSBACH, Germany (AP) — Teenage pilot Zara Rutherford landed in Germany on Wednesday on the penultimate stop of her bid to become the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.
Hopefully one day away from sealing the record, the Belgian-British 19-year-old said that she’s looking forward to getting home after “a long five months.”
Rutherford is due to land Thursday in Kortrijk, Belgium, where she embarked on her trip on Aug. 18. American aviator Shaesta Waiz was 30 when she set the existing record for the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo in 2017.
“Growing up, I didn’t see many other female pilots. I always thought that was really discouraging,” Rutherford told reporters after landing her single-seater Shark sport aircraft at Egelsbach, an airfield a few kilometers from Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest. “So I’m hoping to encourage more girls to go into aviation and kind of show a friendly face, so that if a girl likes aviation and she sees me, she knows she’s not the only one.”
She was initially supposed to finish her trip on Monday, but bad weather has caused several delays during the journey.
Rutherford’s flight saw her steer clear of wildfires in California, deal with biting cold over Russia and narrowly avoid North Korean airspace. She said she’s “really excited” to get home.
“Now to think that I’m home tomorrow, I don’t think I’ve processed it — it still feels strange, I still feel like I should be months away,” she said. “I’m happy that I’ve done it, but it’s been really difficult.”
“There’s been amazing moments, but then there’s been moments when I have feared for my life and I would not want to do that again,” Rutherford added.
“Once I’m home, I think I’m going to sleep for about a week” and then talk about her experiences, she said. She hopes to go to university to study engineering in September, in the U.K. or the U.S.
The men’s record for the youngest solo round the world flight is held by Travis Ludlow of Britain, who set that benchmark last year at 18.