British-Belgian teen aims to follow sister's record with solo world flight

Teen pilot Mack Rutherford poses with his sister Zara, next to his Shark ultralight aircraft at Biggin Hill Airfield near London. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) - British-Belgian teenager Mack Rutherford is hoping to become the youngest male, at 16, to fly around the world solo in a light aircraft, just months after his sister became the youngest woman to do so.

Rutherford said on Tuesday (Feb 15) he felt "pretty confident" he was ready for the challenge as he posed for pictures in front of his Shark ultralight plane at Biggin Hill Airfield in London.

"It's really exciting to think that really soon I'm going to do something incredible," he told Reuters, adding he was looking forward to seeing, among many other places, the Sahara Desert, the Congolese jungle and New York.

The teenager, who is currently at school in England, is due to take off from the Bulgarian capital Sofia on March 17 and expects to be gone for two to three months.

His sister Zara became on Jan 20 the youngest woman, at 19, to fly solo around the world, and also the first person to do so in a microlight plane, after a five-month, five-continent odyssey in her Shark ultralight.

Mack Rutherford, whose parents are also pilots, said he had known he wanted to fly from an early age.

"The first time I actually touched the controls and flew was when I was seven... Since then, my passion has grown," he said.

Zara said she was not planning to visit her brother during his journey, but would "be with him every step of the way".

"He's a great pilot and I know he's able to do this," she said.

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Their father Sam Rutherford echoed her confidence while acknowledging the risks of such a journey.

"I think what he has already is an enormous depth in terms of his ability, not just as a pilot, but actually as an aviator," he said.

Mack Rutherford said setting a new world record was not his main motivation: "I want to show that young people can make a difference... that you don't have to be an adult to do incredible things."

The current world record is held by Briton Travis Ludlow, who was 18 when he completed his trip.

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