British-Belgian 19 year-old becomes youngest woman to fly solo round the world

A British-Belgian teenager became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world on Thursday and the first person to do so in a microlight plane after a five-month, five-continent odyssey in her Shark ultralight.

Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford landed back at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in Belgium after flying 51,000 km (32,000 miles) over 52 nations since her Aug. 18 departure in the world’s fastest microlight aircraft.

Cheers and applause went up as her plane came to a halt on the tarmac.

“It’s just really crazy, I haven’t quite processed it,” Rutherford, smiling broadly and cloaked in British and Belgian flags, told reporters.

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After North and South America, Rutherford was stuck for a month in Alaska because of weather and visa delays. A winter storm forced another long stop in far eastern Russia before she travelled to South Asia, the Middle East and back to Europe.

Her favourite flyovers were New York and an active volcano in Iceland, but there were moments when she feared for her life, including her flight across Siberia’s frozen wastes and a narrow escape from entering North Korean air space during bad weather.

“They have been testing missiles with no warning,” she said of her concerns as she considered cutting across the reclusive authoritarian state during a detour from Russia to South Korea.

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