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British-Belgian Zara (19) embarks upon world solo flight adventure in Wevelgem

Zara Rutherford has taken off from Wevelgem airport at 9:30 this morning to start her solo journey around the world. (Click on the video above to watch). 

Zara, the daughter of a Belgian mother and a British father, embarked upon her journey in a small plane - a Shark ultralight - on a grey morning in Wevelgem, West Flanders. She hopes to break the present record, set by America's Shaeste Waiz who was 30 when she managed to fly around the world on her own. 

Having grown up in Brussels, Zara fetched her secondary education degree in Britain. Her father, Sam Rutherford, is a former British army pilot who was stationed in Belgium. She started training to get her flight permit when she was 14

Her world record attempt was announced on 26 July on Popham Airfield, close to Winchester, under the name Flyzolo (see Instagram post below). Her journey will include about 57 countries and cover 51,000 kilometres. The adventure should take 2 to 3 months, depending on weather conditions. 

Zara first headed west, to southern England. Her odyssey can be followed here. Speaking on the VRT's youth radio station MNM,  she said "I feel nervous but I am ready after a long preparation." She has to fly by herself, without passengers, and will miss her friends and family. "We will keep in touch, of course. Maybe I will miss my cat most." 

The youngest man to complete a solo journey was Mason Andrews, who was 18 years old when he managed his feat. 

In this video, Zara explains how she hopes she can encourage young girls and women to go to aviation or to study engineering or mathematics studies. Her mother Beatrice De Smet says that "it's fantastic that my daughter is going to realise her dream, passing on this message to other girls and women." (quotes in English and Dutch, courtesy Reuters and VRT NWS).

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