Chicago — A 19-year-old pilot from Belgium is soaring toward a world record that would name her as the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.
Zara Rutherford began her flight in her home country and aims to end it in November, according to the Toronto Star. So far, she’s made stops in the United Kingdom, Iceland, Greenland and Canada.
She knew the first half of her trip would be a challenge, flying over the Atlantic Ocean, and is glad she tackled it at the beginning.
“It’s kind of freaky, it’s weird — you start getting optical illusions,” Rutherford said. “When you’re in the air like that for three, four hours, you start thinking you’re seeing land … and then you start struggling to differentiate between the water and the sky, or the water and the clouds.”
Greenland’s high terrain and ferocious winds also proved to be a challenge but it didn’t stop her.
“I think now I’ve really got the confidence to get me going,” she said.
But for her, inspiration for the journey came easy: “Flying around the world is the ultimate thing you can do,” she said.
She has always wanted to be a pilot but was disappointed to find few women in the profession, she said. She’s hoping her world record-breaking trip will inspire more girls to get into aviation and to explore mathematics and engineering.
Her next stops are Montreal and New York City.