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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A British-Belgian teenager became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world on Thursday and the first person to do so in a microlight plane after a five-month, five-continent odyssey in her Shark ultralight. Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford landed back at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in Belgium after flying 51,000 km (32,000 miles) over 52 nations since her Aug. 18 departure in the world’s fastest microlight aircraft. “It’s just really crazy, I haven’t quite processed it,” Rutherford, smiling broadly and cloaked in British and Belgian flags, told reporters.

After the penultimate leg to a German village on Wednesday, she said it was an exploit she would never repeat. After North and South America, Rutherford was stuck for a month in Alaska because of weather and visa delays. A winter storm forced another long stop in far eastern Russia, before she travelled to South Asia, the Middle East and back to Europe. Her favorite flyovers were New York and an active volcano in Iceland, but there were moments when she feared for her life, including her flight across Siberia’s frozen wastes and a narrow escape from entering North Korean air space during bad weather. “They have been testing missiles with no warning,” she said of her concerns as she considered cutting across the reclusive authoritarian state during a detour from Russia to South Korea. […]

To meet criteria for a round-the-world flight, Rutherford touched two points opposite each other on the globe: Jambi in Indonesia and Tumaco in Colombia. Rutherford took the record from Afghan-born American Shaesta Wais, who in 2017 became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world at 30. The youngest male record holder, American Mason Andrews, was 18 when he did it in 2018. She also became the first Belgian to circumnavigate the world solo in a single-engine aircraft, getting through the long days by shuffling through a 40-hour playlist of songs. […] Rutherford dreams of being an astronaut and hopes her voyage will encourage women in science, technology and aviation.


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