17-Year-Old Pilot Becomes Youngest Person to Fly Solo Around the World

17-Year-Old Pilot Becomes Youngest Person to Fly Solo Around the World
Anglo-Belgian pilot, Mack Rutherford, 17, speaks with the media after landing at the Buzet airfield in Pont-A-Celles, Belgium, on Aug. 23, 2022. (Virginia Mayo/AP Photo)
Katabella Roberts

A Belgian British teenager on Aug. 24 became the youngest person to fly around the world by himself.

Mack Rutherford, who is 17 years and 64 days according to Guinness World Records, touched down in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia—where his journey began—to complete a five-month journey across 52 countries.

He also is the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe in a microlight plane.

The teen aviator began his journey on March 23 at the age of 16 in the hopes of achieving the record. He celebrated his 17th birthday along the way.

He flew across the Mediterranean and over the Sahara to the Congolese jungle before flying through Mozambique and Madagascar and the Mauritius island of Rodrigues. He then went on to the Seychelles and the Yemeni island of Socotra, before flying through Oman, the UAE, India, China, South Korea, and Japan.

He continued through Alaska, before heading down the West Coast of the United States to Baja California and a small island in the Pacific, Isla Socorro.

Finally, he flew over mainland Mexico and Texas to New York and Canada, then crossed the Atlantic to reach Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland before continuing through England to Belgium and Bulgaria.

According to his official website, where he posted live updates of the journey, Rutherford spent about 221 hours in the air.

To set a mark recognized by Guinness World Records, he crossed the equator twice. The teen was only able to travel during daylight, because of the small size of his aircraft, an ultralight shark Aero, and would occasionally be forced to land when weather conditions turned intense.

Speaking after his lengthy journey, Rutherford said he hoped his success would inspire other young people to pursue their dreams.

"Just follow your dreams, no matter how old you are—work hard and move forward to achieve your goals," he said.

Rutherford was born into a family of aviators and qualified for his pilot’s license in 2020, when he was just 15 years old. His father Sam Rutherford is a professional ferry pilot, while his mother Beatrice is a recreational private pilot, according to his official website. Both his grandfather and great-grandfather were also private pilots and his great-great-grandmother was among the first South African women to learn to fly.

Meanwhile, his older sister Zara is the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, having completed her circumnavigation of the globe in January. She was, until now, also the youngest person to have circled the globe in a microlight plane.

"I have been fortunate to have had a family that has been able to help me progress in my flying. But no matter what background you have, I believe it is never too early to work towards your dreams and you shouldn’t limit yourself by others’ expectations," the teen wrote on his website.

The previous record holder for flying solo was British pilot Travis Ludlow, who was 18 years and 150 days old when he completed his journey in July 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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