Teen pilot Zara Rutherford more than halfway along in bid to circle globe as she stops in Singapore

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SINGAPORE - Teen pilot Zara Rutherford on Friday (Dec 24) made it to Singapore's shores after a delay in Jakarta due to bad weather.

The Republic is the 53rd stop in her bid to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.

The 19-year-old Belgian-British pilot left Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in western Belgium in August and is now more than halfway along on her 52,000km expedition.

Ms Rutherford had been scheduled to arrive at Seletar Airport on Thursday.

She said of the delay: "It's all part of the adventure. I'm just taking it one step at a time and making sure that I get home safely."

She had planned to complete her journey, which would take her over 52 countries and five continents, by Christmas. However, it took longer than expected in the earlier legs of Russia and Alaska. She now expects to finish her journey in mid-January.

It was challenging in Northern Russia and Siberia as there are vast unpopulated areas without runways there, said Ms Rutherford in an interview with The Straits Times on Friday.

"If weather was bad there, I either had to find a way around it or turn back, but it's really scary because you don't know if you can go back to the original airfield. I also have to think about fuel," she said.

Ms Rutherford, who flies a bespoke Shark Aircraft, one of the world's fastest ultralight aircraft, hopes to break the record held by Ms Shaesta Wais, who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world at the age of 30 in 2017.

The youngest male record holder, Mr Mason Andrews, was 18 when he made his journey in 2018.

Apart from breaking records, a key aim of Ms Rutherford's mission is to create awareness and inspire more girls and young women to take up Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and pursue careers in aviation.

She usually departs before sunrise, and spends her time on the flights listening to podcasts or music. Upon landing, her itinerary includes press interviews, visits to schools, and meetings with youth groups and women in aviation.

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The teenager counts an active volcano in Iceland and Central Park in New York City as some of the top sights while flying.

Ms Rutherford, who is carrying out her journey amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said she is grateful for the chance to see the world when other people cannot, but wishes that it could have been done at a different time.

"Although I am travelling around the world, I don't get to see many places on the ground," she said.

Ms Zara Rutherford landed at Seletar Airport around 2.45pm, on Dec 24, 2021. PHOTO: AEROPHOTOWORKS FOR SHARK.AERO

The pilot is spending her visit to Singapore in a hotel.

On Friday, she interacted with Singapore students and aviation enthusiasts in a webinar co-organised by the Association of Aerospace Industries (Singapore), the Belgian and Czech Republic embassies, and Women in Aviation International Singapore Chapter.

Ms Rutherford will fly to Bandar Aceh on Monday. She plans to stop by at least 13 more countries before heading back to Belgium to complete her mission of circumnavigating the world.

Follow her journey at flyzolo.com/route

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