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

by Lauren Boisvert

Belgian-Bristish 17-year-old Mack Rutherford is officially the youngest person to fly solo around the world. He broke the world record previously held by Travis Ludlow of Britain, who was 18. Rutherford also broke the record for the youngest person to fly around the world in a solo ultralight aircraft, which was previously held by his older sister, Zara, at 19.

At a Glance

  • 17-year-old Belgian-British teen Mack Rutherford broke two world records on Wednesday, August 24: youngest person to fly solo around the world, and youngest person to fly solo around the world in an ultralight aircraft
  • His older sister Zara previously held the second record, and Rutherford beat 18-year-old Travis Ludlow for the first
  • He began his journey on March 23 from Belgium and landed again on August 24
  • He flew over 52 countries on 5 continents, crossing the Equator twice

Mack Rutherford Talks About Inspiring Five-Month Flight

Rutherford said that he hopes his trip shows people of any age that they can follow their dreams and do what they put their minds to. “Just follow your dreams, no matter how old you are – work hard and move forward to achieve your goals,” he said, per AP News. Now, though, he plans to go back to school and catch up on what he missed while he was out breaking world records. “The next thing I’m going to do is to go back to school and catch up as much as I can,” he shared.

Mack Rutherford took to the skies from Bulgaria on March 23 and was initially expected to take three months. There were unexpected delays and obstacles, though, such as intense rains, sandstorms, and heat. Additionally, there were times when he had to wait to obtain permits to allow him to fly a different route if the initial plan was scrapped. Rutherford flew a Shark ultralight aircraft with the second seat modified into an extra fuel tank. He flew twice over the Equator, and through 52 countries on 5 continents, according to AP News. Rutherford started his journey as a 16-year-old but turned 17 on the trip.

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

Mack Rutherford was born into an aviating family. His older sister held world aviation records as well. His father, Sam Rutherford was extremely proud of his son’s achievement and hoped it would inspire young people around the world to work towards their own goals as well.

Rutherford’s family stayed in close contact with him throughout his journey. His mother and father called him every day, according to his sister. Zara Rutherford would join in on the calls and share her wisdom from her own flights as well. “While he was flying,” she said, “I constantly tried to keep in touch and help him. Our parents called him every day, and I joined in those conversations. I gave him advice on the route, on the flight, so that I could be useful to him.”

The young pilot flew over Africa, India, China, South Korea, and Japan. He landed on a volcanic island in the Bering Strait after 10 hours in the air. After the initial stop, he flew to Alaska and down the Western United States, ending up in Mexico. He then flew up the East Coast, through Canada, and on to Europe. He landed in Bulgaria on Wednesday, August 24, to a crowd of people waiting to congratulate him.