19-year-old aims to become youngest female pilot to fly solo around the world
Eurobond Adhesives is sponsoring Zara Rutherford in her attempt to become, at the age of nineteen, the youngest female pilot ever to fly solo around the world – and so far the mission is progressing admirably.
Her route has taken her across Belgium, the UK, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, America, The Caribbean Islands, The British Virgin Islands, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and back into the USA.
High-performance pilot and aircraft
What makes her round-the-world attempt even more remarkable is that she has only held her private pilot’s licence for less than two years, having qualified at the age of just 17. The aircraft selected to carry her safely around the globe is a Shark UL, a cutting-edge example of the most modern high-performance ultralight aircraft. It features retractable undercarriage and a smaller, high-efficiency wing design together with a variable-pitch propeller and a high-tech cockpit interior.
The aircraft is designed and constructed using the most advanced carbon fibre epoxy composite technology and incorporates many light-weighting design features, such as the use of adhesive bonding to replace mechanical fixings. Zara’s machine is powered by a ROTAX 912 ULS 100 hp engine, delivering a cruising speed of 140 knots and a range of around 1,600 km.
Born to fly
Rutherford was born into a family of aviators and says she was lucky to have great role models in my parents and grandparents. “I want to build on this heritage and inspire others. My aim is to encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams and promote aviation and STEM-related careers (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) for them. Only 5% of commercial pilots and 15% of computer scientists are women.
“In both areas – aviation and STEM – the gender gap is huge. In fact, it is a dream gap. Our dreams are formed in early childhood. Children are being told fairy tales like the Sleeping Beauty, where the prince travels with style and courage through difficult and dangerous places. The princess is beautiful, sleeps and waits for the prince to rescue her. Boys learn from history books, street signs and statues that they can be scientists, astronauts or CEOs.
"They are much more likely to receive science-related toys and are being encouraged to be bold. Girls get gifted dolls and are expected to be charming, beautiful and sweet. Upbringings shape our dreams.”
Closing down the gap
By way of illustrating the disparity, she points out: “ The youngest man to have flown solo around the world, Travis Ludlow, was 18 years old. The youngest woman, Shaesta Waiz, was 30 at the time of her flight. With my flight, I hope to reduce this gap from 11 years to 11 months.”
Breaking the World Record would be great, she adds, but not the most important thing. “I mainly want to inspire young women. I want to show them that they can be bold, have ambitious dreams and make them come true.”
Her world record attempt has been difficult and complex at times. Adverse weather, causing her to divert from her intended route and spending unplanned days sitting it out in remote airfields waiting for the weather to clear, has slowed her progress at times, but she remains resolute.
“I was stuck in Quibdó (Colombia) for a couple days,” says Zara. “I was headed towards Tumaco, which is further south, but decided to land at the nearest airfield as the weather was slowly worsening. Quibdó happened to be the closest airfield; it also happens to be the rainiest city on Earth… the people here were incredible and I’m very thankful for all their help!’’
Eurobond Adhesives has a long history of supporting organisations that offer young people challenging and engaging activities that are designed to take them out of their comfort zone and help them engage in education.