IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Meet the 19-year-old trying to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world

Zara Rutherford is on an epic mission and she’s already more than halfway through her journey.
/ Source: TODAY

At only 19 years old, Zara Rutherford hopes to have her name printed in record books as the youngest woman to fly around the world by herself.

The title is currently held by pilot Shaesta Waiz, who completed the feat in 2017 at age 30. Now, Rutherford is looking to achieve that same objective even though she's still a teen.

Rutherford, who's already over halfway toward her goal, spoke to NBC's Kelly Cobiella on Weekend TODAY about her historic mission and revealed that she didn't initially set out to break the world record.

“When I started planning for this, I didn't actually realize I would be beating a record,” Rutherford said with a laugh. “For me, it was kind of a dream I've had for a really long time.”

Zara Rutherford is piloting a Shark that's specially designed for long journeys on her global trip.Flyzolo

The young British pilot began her adventure in Belgium back in August. So far, she has cruised over the U.K., Iceland, Greenland, Canada, the United States and South America. Overall, Rutherford plans to travel through 52 countries and five continents, a voyage that spans over 26,000 miles.

People can follow her progress on her website, which includes live tracking updates and details about her airport arrivals and departures. According to the website, Rutherford, who holds several licenses including private pilot licenses, will be the youngest person to fly alone around the world in a Shark microlight, a small, ultralight aircraft that's also currently the world's fastest.

While her plane can take her up to speeds of 180 miles an hour, Rutherford does admit it’s not the most relaxing way to travel. “It is very small. So there's not much room to move around,” she said.

Rutherford began her expedition from Belgium.Flyzolo

Despite the cramped quarters though, Rutherford enjoys her flights and the scenery she gets to see from above, which includes everything from glaciers to volcanoes. “I flew over an erupting volcano in Iceland,” she shared, adding that the flight did become “very bumpy” at one point.

“That was something I wasn't really prepared for,” she said.

The teenager also said she looks up to female pilots who came before her, such as Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman, who became the first African American and first Native American to receive a pilot’s license. Rutherford said in particular, she admires their “bravery” and “determination.”

Rutherford (left) said she's passionate about aviation, science, technology and math, and hopes to encourage more young women to take to the skies or pursue STEM careers.Flyzolo

Rutherford hopes her journey will inspire other young girls who dream of flying planes. She noted that Travis Ludlow was just 18 when he became youngest man to fly around the world, according to the Guinness World Records.

“There's a 12-year gap between the female world record holder and the male world record holder,” she said. “So I thought, you know what, that's ridiculous.”

Rutherford said her journey has been “great” so far. “I've met so many amazing people, as well as so many kids that have said that they want to fly as well.”

Rutherford reached her halfway point of Nome, Alaska, a city about 537 miles northwest of Anchorage, just six weeks after taking off from Belgium. If weather conditions are stable, she hopes to return home by Christmas. Then, she can work on her next goal.

“An absolute dream would be to become an astronaut.”

After all, why reach for the sky when you can shoot for the stars?

CORRECTION (Nov. 7, 2021, 2:59 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Rutherford as Belgian. She is British.