On Tuesday, teen pilot Mack Rutherford landed his small plane in southern Belgium. That means he’s on track to become the youngest person to ever fly solo around the world. The Belgian-British teenager touched down at Buzet Airstrip near Charleroi where Rutherford first learned to pilot airplanes as a young man. Next up, the last leg of his global journey as he’s scheduled to land in Bulgaria on Wednesday to secure the world record.
When Rutherford began his solo trek across the globe on March 23rd, he was still only 16 years old. Since then, he’s celebrated his 17th birthday. But that’s still young enough to beat current British record holder Travis Ludlow who was 18 when he earned the record just last year.
Rutherford’s solo journey started in late March but was only supposed to last two to three months. His trek in the small plane would take him through 52 countries over five continents. As part of the Guinness World Records’ requirements, the teen pilot’s route had to cross the equator two times. Yet multiple delays have slowed his progress as we’re now five months into the global trip.
“It was supposed to take between two to three months and it’s been five months now,” Rutherford told The Associated Press.
The teen pilot added that “paperwork issues, visas, permits, things like that” are to blame for his delays. The administrative formalities were mainly an issue during stops in Crete and Dubai.
Teen Pilot Has One More Trip Before He Sets the World Record
17-year-old Mack Rutherford isn’t the only teen pilot setting records in his family. His 19-year-old sister, Zara Rutherford, set the world record earlier this year in January for the youngest woman to fly solo across the globe. In fact, both of the Rutherford siblings are flying a similar plane during their extensive travels.
Mack is piloting a Shark, which is one of the world’s fastest and lightest airplanes. The small plane can reach cruising speeds of around 186 mph. Plus, Rutherford’s plane has been custom-made for his long journey. Fabricators removed the plane’s second seat and installed an extra fuel tank in its place. The extra fuel means Rutherford can fly longer during his travels that have taken him across the world.
His flight took him through areas where he faced severe heat in Africa and the Gulf region. Rutherford’s journey continued into India, China, South Korea, and Japan. After his trek to the Far East, the teen pilot flew to Alaska, then headed south across the U.S. West Coast to Mexico. Rutherford turned north once again and followed the U.S. East Coast back up to Canada.
From there, he flew across the Atlantic Ocean to Iceland, then to the United Kingdom, and finally to Belgium. As long as weather permits it, the teenager will fly east across Europe tomorrow and land in Sofia – Bulgaria’s capital.
In the AP report, the outlet spoke to Mack’s father, Sam Rutherford. His dad shared how proud he is of not only Mack, but his daughter as well for their accomplishments.
“They have got around the world safely, effectively, professionally,” Sam told the AP. “And they’ve shown to other youngsters that you don’t have to be 18 even, and certainly not 30, to make a difference and do something and follow your dreams.”