Around the world in 155 days. Belgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford is just 19 years old. But in January, she completed a five-month solo flight around the world. She set a world record as the youngest woman to make the trip by air.
Rutherford used a one-seater utralight plane and flew using Visual Flight Rules. That means she flew mostly by sight without navigational instruments to lead her through darkness, clouds, or fog. While she planned to make the trip in three months, bad weather delayed her.
Along the way, Rutherford found beautiful sights—and some scares. Wildfires forced an unscheduled landing in Redding, California. The higher she climbed to avoid the smoke—up to 10,000 feet—the tougher it was to keep her eyes on the ground.
Over Siberia, the light played tricks on her vision, sometimes casting doubt about whether she saw mountains or clouds. Cutting through clouds could cause too much ice to build up on her wings, paralyzing her control of the plane. “At that point, your plane is no longer a plane,” she says.
She was stuck for weeks in the tiny Siberian village of Ayan with barely any contact with the outside world.
By the end of the trip, Rutherford had stopped in five continents and visited dozens of nations. From the air, she saw the Saudi Arabian desert with its changing colors of sand and rock, the barrenness of northern Alaska, and “the world’s loneliest house” on the deserted island of Ellioaey, Iceland.
Flying is in her blood. Both Zara’s parents are pilots. At age 14, she started flying too. She hopes her flight will encourage other girls to pursue studies in math, science, and technology.
Not everyone has the knowledge and skills to take on a trip like Rutherford’s. But any young person has the ability to do worthwhile things. Timothy was a young leader in the early church. Paul wrote him, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
In September, Rutherford plans to attend university to study electrical engineering.
But before then, she’ll indulge in some simpler, and calmer, pleasures.
Before, “it was about the grand adventure,” she says. “But actually I think, you know, watching TV with your cat has its special things as well.”
Why? Young people can do amazing things. Zara Rutherford’s story may inspire others to take on new adventures.
Pray for wisdom about new endeavors to which God may be calling you.