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Teenager’s quest begins to be youngest female to fly the globe

Clement Rossignol, August 24, 2021 7:00PM Reuters

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British-Belgian pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, takes off in her Shark ultralight aircraft on August 18 to begin her bid to become the youngest female to fly solo around the world. Picture: John Thys/AFP. media_cameraBritish-Belgian pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, takes off in her Shark ultralight aircraft on August 18 to begin her bid to become the youngest female to fly solo around the world. Picture: John Thys/AFP.

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All eyes are on distant skies now teen pilot Zara Rutherford has begun her epic world record bid. The 19-year-old safely took off to start a three-month effort to become the youngest female to fly solo around the world.

Rutherford left Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in western Belgium in her Shark ultralight*, the world’s fastest microlight* aircraft.

media_cameraBelgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, at a press conference prior to take off. She said she hopes other girls and young women will be inspired by her adventure to pursue STEM subjects. Picture: John Thys/AFP

The British-Belgian flyer hopes her voyage* will encourage more girls to study and later work as women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and spark girls’ interest in aviation*.

“Growing up, I loved aviation and STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but I didn’t see many other women or girls doing that. I just always thought that was quite sad or discouraging*,” Ms Rutherford told Reuters. “I’m hoping that I can encourage girls to go into this field.”

Teenage pilot begins solo round-world record bid

The young adventurer is seeking to win the title from Shaesta Wais, the Afghan-American pilot who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world at the age of 30.

The youngest male record holder, Mason Andrews, was 18 years old when he made the journey.

Ms Rutherford’s route began on August 18 and will take about three months, with stops in 52 countries – including Greenland, China and Nicaragua. Along the way, she will stay with local families or in hotels. Getting sufficient recovery time along the way would be a key priority. Ms Rutherford said that fatigue* was always a significant factor when flying long-distance.

“I make sure I’m always well rested,” she said. “There’s some more logistical* complications weatherwise that could delay some days, but I’m looking forward to it and I’ve got a great team supporting me.”

That team includes her parents, Beatrice and Sam Rutherford, who are both pilots.

media_cameraBelgian-British pilot Zara Rutherford, 19, takes some last minute tips from her father Sam Rutherford, a former RAF pilot, before taking off on her round-the-world trip. Picture: John Thys/AFP.

Mum Beatrice said there were “obviously mixed feelings” when her daughter first announced the ambitious plan.

“When she first told me about it, my heart skipped a beat,” she said. “It took me a bit of time to digest and now I’m so proud and fully, fully behind her.”

“It’s really exciting,” said Ms Rutherford’s dad Sam. “I see the risks, I understand them, but so does she.

“I’m really proud of what she’s doing, not just for herself but also in this ability to level the playing field for women getting into STEM and aviation. I think it’s fantastic.”

Rutherford will start university next year, with the “huge dream” of one day becoming an astronaut.

“We’ll see how that goes, but that would be amazing,” she said.

“I love adventure and I think space is probably the biggest adventure out there.”

GLOSSARY

  • ultralight: a very small, light, one- or two-seater aircraft
  • microlight: another name for ultralight
  • voyage: journey, trip, expedition
  • aviation: operating aircraft and related flight activities
  • discouraging: causing someone to lose confidence or enthusiasm
  • fatigue: exhaustion, extreme tiredness, often from extreme mental and/or physical exertion
  • logistical: involving organisation and planning

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Which European country did Zara Rutherford take off from?
  2. How many countries will she visit along the way and can you name three of them?
  3. What is the name of her aircraft?
  4. What does STEM stand for?
  5. What does this adventurous teen pilot hope to become when she grows up?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. STEM for Girls
Why do you think there are a lot less girls and women involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths jobs than boys and men?

What sort of programs could encourage girls to be more involved in STEM from a young age?

What do you think future jobs could look like that involve both men and women?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Write a list of things Zara would have to plan for when planning this around the world journey.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Around the World with Zara
Zara will take three months to fly solo around the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to convince her to make a fuel stop in your hometown. Write a letter to Zara to convince her to drop-pin your hometown on her travels as a fuel stop.

Think about why Zara should stop here. Do you have the best bakery around? Can your mum cook a mean roast and you would like to invite Zara over for a home-cooked meal on her travels? Or do you want to stop at your school to share her journey so far?

Remember to make your writing ‘pop’.

Use this checklist to help check over your work before you share it:

  • I have read over my work to make sure it makes sense and I didn’t miss any letters or words
  • I have started my sentences with capital letters and ending them with a full stop, exclamation mark or question mark
  • I have used capitals for names and places
  • I have written in full sentences
  • I have used WOW words, connectives, powerful openers and punctuation
  • I have used my neatest handwriting and finger spaces
  • I have checked all my letters face the right way
  • I have checked my work, and checked again by reading my work out loud to myself and I am proud of what I have done

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