Teenage pilot sets age record for solo flight around the world

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Sofia, Bulgaria — The Belgian-British teen on Wednesday became the youngest person to fly around the world alone in a small plane after landing in Bulgaria, where her global journey began five months ago.

Mac Rutherford, who turned 17 during the trip, landed at an airstrip west of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, to complete his mission and claim two Guinness World Records. Rutherford alone became the youngest person to fly around the world, as well as the youngest person to orbit the globe in a microlight plane.

His sister, Zara, who completed her global voyage in January at the age of 19, set the first ultralight record. Rutherford took the age record from Britain’s Travis Ludlow, who was 18 when he flew solo around the world last year.

The record voyage, which began on 23 March, took Rutherford to 52 countries on five continents. He crossed the equator twice, setting a mark recognized by Guinness World Records.

Born into a family of aviators, Rutherford qualified for his pilot’s license in 2020, making him the youngest pilot in the world at the time, aged 15.

His solo trip flying around the world began in Bulgaria because his sponsor, the web hosting company ICDSoft, is headquartered in Sofia and lent him the plane.

Like his sister, Rutherford flew the Shark, one of the fastest ultralight aircraft in the world, with cruising speeds reaching 300 km/h (186 mph). Usually a two-seater, it was modified for their longer travel by replacing the second seat with an additional tank.

Initially planned to take up to three months, the journey was prolonged due to several unforeseen obstacles along its way, including monsoon rains, sand storms and extreme heat.

But most of the delays are due to waiting to obtain permits and other documents required for onward flight or if they are denied then the scheduled route has to be changed.

the flight took him Africa and the Gulf region for India, China, South Korea and Japan. It crossed the North Pacific and landed on a volcanic island near the Bering Strait after 10 hours of uninterrupted air flow.

From there, it traveled through Alaska and the West Coast of the United States to Mexico, then headed north again along the US East Coast to Canada and across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

Huge crowds of people arrived at the airport on Wednesday to welcome Rutherford and celebrate his achievements. Among them were three members of his immediate family.

Father Sam Rutherford said he was extremely happy and proud of his children’s achievements. He told reporters that such an event especially encourages children to fulfill their dreams and parents support them in their endeavours.

His sister, Zara Rutherford, said that she remained in close contact with her younger brother during his travels.

“While he was flying, I tried to constantly keep in touch and help him. Our parents used to call him every day, and I joined those conversations. I gave him advice on the route, in flight, so that I could be useful to him, ”she said.

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