Zara Rutherford taxies her plane after landing in Seattle from Redding, Calif.
Piloting a single-engine plane through the mountainous regions of the Pacific Northwest and onward to Alaska in the autumn can be daunting, with plenty of weather and terrain challenges.
Then consider that it’s just one short portion of a round-the-world journey, crossing oceans and landing in more than 50 countries across five continents.
She’s also not instrument rated, which means she is doing the whole trip via visual flight rules.
Zara Rutherford is a 19-year-old Belgian pilot, flying a high-performance Shark Aero ultralight aircraft. If she succeeds in her journey, she will become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, as well as the youngest person to fly solo around the world in a microlight.
She departed Belgium in August, 2021, and stopped in Seattle Sept. 19, before heading north toward Alaska a couple days later.
A tired, but smiling, Zara Rutherford arrived in Seattle Sept. 19. King County International Airport officials presented her with a gift bag on arrival; the local apples were apparently well received.
She we greeted by a small crowd of supporters, including representatives from the airport, Museum of Flight and several businesses from the airfield. Shortly after talking with the group of well-wishers, she was taken on a private tour of the museum.
Chatting with well-wishers
The welcoming committee was small but supportive
Zara answered questions from the crowd
Appropriately enough, we got a chance to chat with Zara in front of the museum’s replica of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. We only had time for a brief chat, as she was tired from the long flight and still needed to move her plane to its overnight parking location.
Asked about her decision to do the circumnavigation without instrument rating, she simply replied, “why not?”
“I wanted a challenge. I wanted to see the world – not just fly around at X thousand feet,” she said. “If you’re in the overcast you can be anywhere – you can be in Egypt or in Russia – it doesn’t really matter.”
And, something close to this AvGeek’s heart – I wanted to know why she chose this particular light-sport aircraft for such a journey. Her reply was appropriately businesslike: “It has a good cruising speed, good fuel consumption, and good range. And I received a business proposal where they would let me use the plane in exchange for the publicity.”
Greece was a big destination this summer since the country opened up to travelers a bit earlier than much of the rest of Europe. The islands were especially popular, and to get around them you have two choices: ferries and planes. Being a BoatReporter could be fun, but when I visited in June, I opted to fly.
Flag carrier Aegean is the largest Greek carrier, but the much newer Sky Express is in second place and growing fast. A year ago they ordered six Airbus A320neos to go with their existing ATR fleet. And even though Sky Express is a pretty no-frills airline, the onboard experience on a brand-new plane is usually a touch above. So I picked them for a flight from Mykonos to Athens. The service clocked in at just 20 minutes in the air, but the views were amazing. Take a look for yourself in our video trip report:
Let us know if you enjoy video trip reports like this and we’ll keep doing more of them!
World Postcard Day is this Friday- October 1. To celebrate we thought it would be fun to share some aviation-themed postcards and talk about Postcrossing, our newest travel activity turned obsession. Stick through to the end because we’re also offering to share a piece of our postcard collection with commenters.
An assortment of aviation-related postcards received through postcrossing.com.
Postcards are overdue for a resurgence
As a so-called millennial (though, admittedly, an early one) I grew up right in the middle of the digital revolution. Email gained popularity when I was a child and as such was always an option for me. While digital communication essentially eliminated my need for communication by mail, postcards were the clear exception. There’s something special about the personal touch, effort and logistics required to get a postcard delivered to someone’s mailbox. The thought of an unexpected postcard surprise bringing a smile to the recipient’s face is pretty darn cool.
I have felt the calling to send postcards to friends and family while traveling ever since I was a child. During pandemic lock down I finally had the opportunity to examine several large postcard collections I acquired from estate sales. My drive to send postcards while on holiday, I learned, was shared by travelers over a hundred years before me. Sending postcards while away is fun. So in today’s digital world where society is oddly fascinated with retro and throwbacks, I’d propose the postcard hobby is due for a rebirth.
Before I dive deep into my “postcard evangelism” let me ask you a few questions. Are you sitting on a cache of stamps you don’t know what to do with? Perhaps you bought a bunch in 2020 to save the USPS? Or maybe you fell for a charismatic Costco cashier’s 100-stamp sales pitch? Are you a traveler? (Of course you are, you’re reading Airline Reporter!) Well then, join us for a discussion on reviving the 150-year old science of Deltiology and how sites like Postcrossing.com can help.
Poor Mr. MAX, famous for all the wrong reasons. But the dumpster fire otherwise known as 2020 gave the 737 MAX a chance to hide from the news cycle as Boeing fixed its design issues. The FAA held Boeing’s feet to the fire with the recertification, and today I have more than enough trust in the plane to fly it. I got my chance on a medium-haul flight from Miami International to New York LaGuardia earlier this summer.
After all the build-up I was expecting to be either overwhelmed or underwhelmed. But instead, I was just … whelmed. It’s a gorgeous plane, sleeker than the 737’s previous iterations. It’s quieter, has cooler onboard lighting, and plenty of under-the-hood operational benefits for the airlines. I felt very safe on the plane, and about as comfortable as one can expect to be in domestic economy. But as usual, the airline’s choice of onboard product made the biggest impact on the experience. Ultimately, the most memorable parts of the flight were the *amazing* window seat views I got over Miami and New York.
Hop onboard with me for a few thoughts on American’s 737 MAX 8, and for lots of photos and videos from the flight.