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19-year-old pilot becomes youngest woman to circumnavigate the world

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- A 19-year-old British-Belgian pilot's globe-circling adventure broke two Guinness World Records, including becoming the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo.

Zara Rutherford, 19, landed Thursday at Belgium's Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport, completing her more-than-32,300-mile journey and earning the Guinness World Records for youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo and the first woman to circumnavigate in a microlight aircraft.

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Rutherford took the first record from U.S. pilot Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she circled the globe unaccompanied in 2017.

The pilot said she had initially expected her record attempt to take about three months when she set off in her customized Shark ultralight aircraft on Aug. 18, but she ended up facing numerous delays along the way due to visa issues, dangerous weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I would say the hardest part was definitely flying over Siberia -- it was extremely cold. It was minus 35 degrees Celsius on the ground," CNN quoted Rutherford as telling reporters after landing in Belgium.

"If the engine were to stall, I'd be hours away from rescue, and I don't know how long I could have survived."

Rutherford, who is planning to study computer engineering when she starts college in September, said she wanted to increase visibility for women in aviation.

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Her journey also raised money for charities Girls Who Code, which aims to help women enter the computer science field, and Dreams Soar, which was founded by Waiz and promotes women in STEM fields.

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