Teenage pilot hopes to break sister’s round-the-world record-breaking flight
British-Belgian Mack Rutherford, 16, has taken off from Bulgaria with the dream of becoming the youngest microlight pilot to complete a solo circumnavigation of the globe.
The youngster’s aviation adventure follows hot-on-the heels of his sister Zara’s record-breaking circumnavigation in January, when she landed in Kortrijk after a successful five-month circumnavigation.
Taking sibling rivalry to new heights, Rutherford is attempting the feat in a Shark, the same aircraft as his sister and one of the fastest ultralight aircrafts in the world with a cruising speed of up to 300km/h.
Dressed in a jumpsuit and wearing a blue baseball cap, the UK-based teenage pilot told reporters shortly before taking off from the small airfield, outside Sofia, that he had to change his itinerary because of the war in Ukraine.
"I’m no longer going through Russia but crossing Pakistan, India, China, South Korea and Japan to then reach the United States."
Rutherford’s parents are both keen aviators and he started accompanying his father in the cockpit when he was eight. He qualified for his pilot licence in 2020 when he was 15, becoming the youngest pilot in the world.
With this new challenge, he aims to beat the male round-the-world solo record set by 18-year-old Briton, Travis Ludlow, last year.
"I want to show that you don't have to be an adult to do something special," said the teenager as he embarks on a journey travelling through four continents and 30 countries in less than three months.
The hardest part of the challenge, he said, was convincing his sceptical parents who were concerned about his age and his commitment. But he has promised to return to school afterwards and pass his A-level exams next year.
As far as the weather is concerned, this is the ideal time to set off as it’s not yet too hot in Africa and he will return to the northern hemisphere in the summer.
But the young pilot is a little apprehensive about crossing oceans, although his older sister has advised him to turn around if it proves impossible to pass under the clouds.
Rutherford’s parents and sister were present to witness his departure in Bulgaria, where he was applauded by a small crowd of aviation enthusiasts.
His only companion on board as he set off on his record-breaking feat was his teddy bear sitting on the passenger seat.