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Teen pilot on track for solo global flight world record

A 17-year-old pilot is about to break the record as the youngest person to ever fly around the world – but he isn’t the only one in his family who is a flying ace.

August 23, 2022
By Mark Carlson
23 August 2022

A Belgian-British teenage pilot was on track on Tuesday to become the youngest person to fly around the world solo in a small plane as he landed in southern Belgium ahead of the penultimate leg of his global odyssey.

Mack Rutherford, who turned 17 during the journey, touched down at Buzet Airstrip near the city of Charleroi, where he originally learned to fly.

He’s due to land in Bulgaria on Wednesday. His aim: to displace Travis Ludlow of Britain, who was 18 when he set the record in 2021.

Seventeen-year-old pilot Mack Rutherford is aiming to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Rutherford is flying a Shark, one of the fastest ultralight aircraft in the world with a cruising speed reaching 300 kph (186 mph), which has been specially fitted out for the long journey. It’s normally a two-seater, but an extra fuel tank has been installed next to the young pilot.

It’s the same kind of aircraft used by his 19-year-old sister, Zara Rutherford, when she set the world record on January 20 for the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.

Mack’s lonely journey, which began on March 23, took him through 52 countries over five continents. To conform with Guinness World Records requirements, the route crossed the equator twice.

“It was supposed to take between two to three months and it’s been five months now,” he said.

Seventeen year old Mack Rutherford with his sister Zara Rutherford, who earlier this year became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world at nineteen years old. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

Administrative formalities in Crete and Dubai “because of paperwork issues, visas, permits, things like that,” caused the delay.

The flight took him through Africa and the Gulf region – where he face periods of extreme heat – then on to India, China, South Korea and Japan. From there, he headed to Alaska and down the US West Coast to Mexico.

The teen then headed north again along the US East Coast to Canada, across the Atlantic via Iceland, to the UK and Belgium.

If all goes well, and weather permitting, he’ll fly east across Europe via Slovakia and land at an airport in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, on Wednesday.

“They’ve shown other youngsters you don’t have to be 18 … to make a difference and do something and follow your dreams.”

Sam Rutherford, the father of young record-breaking pilots Mack and Zara Rutherford

Proud father Sam Rutherford said his two children have set a shining example.

“They have got around the world safely, effectively, professionally. And they’ve shown to other youngsters that you don’t have to be 18 even, and certainly not 30, to make a difference and do something and follow your dreams.”

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