Zara Rutherford is sure to have inspired thousands, if not millions, of aspiring and current aviators by becoming the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.
Now she has become the latest recipient of the AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award in recognition of her amazing achievement and her work to encourage more women and girls into aviation.
Rutherford, who completed the trip in a specially-designed Shark ultralight aircraft, was presented with the award in London by Dame Eleanor Laing MP, the Deputy Speaker of the UK House of Commons, and AeroTime’s CEO, Richard Stephenson.
The 19-year-old pilot is keen to change the gender inequality in aviation by helping to inspire more girls and women to enter the industry.
“I hope my achievement highlights to young women and girls around the world that they can be bold, ambitious, and pursue their dreams, especially when it comes to aviation,” Rutherford commented after receiving the AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award last week.
“During my journey, I met many incredible, talented women – pilots, engineers, and others. Sadly, only 5% of commercial pilots are women at the moment, but I believe together we can make a real change.”
According to the 2021 Women in Aviation Workforce report, by Rebecca Lutte at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, little progress is being made in increasing the representation of women in aviation. The report revealed that women make up less than 20% of most aviation occupations, despite accounting for 47% of the overall workforce in the United States. The areas with the biggest gender gaps remain pilots, where just 5% are women, maintenance technicians (2.6% women), and senior leadership positions (3% women).
Zara Rutherford (centre) receives AeroTime Achievement Award from Dame Eleanor Laing MP, the Deputy Speaker of the UK House of Commons (left) and AeroTime’s CEO Richard Stephenson (right)
An extraordinary achievement
Rutherford’s round the world journey began on August 18, 2021, taking off in her ultralight Shark aircraft from her home airport of Kortrijk (KJK) in Belgium. The journey was supposed to take three months, but she eventually returned home to KJK on January 20, 2022, two months later than planned after experiencing severe weather delays as well as paperwork problems with her Russia visa.
Rutherford’s journey saw her cross two antipodal points, one in Colombia and one in Indonesia.
The dual Belgian-UK national took the record for youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo away from Shaesta Waiz, who completed the feat at age 30 in 2017.
“What she has achieved at the age of 19 is extraordinary. She is marvellous and a great inspiration to young women everywhere,” Dame Eleanor said after meeting Rutherford in London. “We would love to see more and more young women pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And that is what leads to incredible feats like this, inspiring the next generation.”
Speaking to AeroTime in London, Rutherford says her favorite part of the trip was the Saudi Arabia leg, which afforded beautiful scenery and great visibility. Flying was challenging in Russia due to large drops in temperature, which created problems for the air intake for the engine of her ultralight aircraft.
AeroTime launched its Women in Aviation campaign almost one year ago, highlighting the inspirational work done by women in a range of roles across the industry.
“Through the work we’ve been doing with our campaign, we’ve come across many incredible women making an impact on the industry. Undeniably, much work remains to be done in our industry to achieve equity for all,” Stephenson commented.
“We hope people will sit up and pay attention to what Zara has achieved. And as Zara says, real change is possible. On behalf of AeroTime, I am proud to have the opportunity to present what I am sure will be the first of many aviation awards to Zara.”
The AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award is designed to recognize excellence and dedication in the global aviation industry. It has been presented to 27 people across five continents.