A 17-year-old Belgian-born British pilot became the youngest person to fly solo around the world in a small plane after taking off in March this year.
Since taking off, Mack Rutherford has crossed the equator twice and passed through 52 countries on five continents. Bulgaria on March 23 this year.
She also broke the record held by her sister Zara the youngest person and the youngest woman to travel around the world in an ultralight aircraft at the age of 19 in January of this year.
On Wednesday, he landed as planned at an airstrip west of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, where his main sponsor is based.
He entered the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest person to fly solo around the world, previously held by Briton Travis Ludlow, who completed this feat in 18 years and 150 days. Rutherford turned 17 during the trip.
He revealed that the challenges he faced included sandstorms in Sudan, extreme heat in Dubai, airport closures in India, monsoon rains and a number of technical problems. Most of the delays were due to delays in obtaining permits and other documents, or rerouting if denied.
But he said the “hairiest moment” was sleeping in a shed on an abandoned Pacific island during an 11-hour flight from Japan to Alaska over the North Pacific’s Bering Sea.
“After 10 hours I got to this little island, it was getting dark, so I landed and it was pretty low cloud, it was raining, it was getting pretty dark, there were no lights on the runway,” he said.
“It’s actually an uninhabited island, so if something went wrong, I’d be alone on that island, it was so important that nothing went wrong. I landed there and had to sleep in a small shed on the side of the runway because it had been completely abandoned for over 10 years.”
The flight took him through the African continent and the Gulf region to India, China, South Korea and Japan. It crossed the North Pacific to Alaska and traveled up the US west coast to Mexico, then north again up the US east coast to Canada and across the Atlantic to Europe.
A large crowd came to the airport to welcome Rutherford on Wednesday. Among them were three members of his immediate family: his parents, both pilots, and his sister Zara.
Father Sam Rutherford said he was extremely proud of his children’s achievements. He told journalists that such an event is a special incentive for children to follow their dreams and for their parents to support them.
Her sister, Zara, said she has kept in close contact with her younger brother during his journey.
“While he was flying, I was constantly trying to reach out and help him. Our parents called him every day, and I joined those conversations. I gave him advice on the route, on the flight, so that I could be useful to him.”
Mak is said to have dreamed of becoming a pilot since the age of three, and in September 2020, at the age of 15, he became the world’s youngest qualified pilot.
Like Zara, Mack flew the Shark, one of the world’s fastest ultralights, with a cruising speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). The plane has been converted from a two-seater to a single seat with an extra fuel tank to enable it to make such a long journey, and has been leased to Rutherford by its main sponsor ICDSoft.
Rutherford said that while it was long, her trip was “absolutely amazing.” “With this journey, I’m trying to show that young people can make a difference, you don’t have to be 18 to do something special – just follow your dreams and they will eventually come true.”
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