At the end of March, Mack Rutherford set out in Bulgaria to break the world record. He would like to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the world in an ultralight aircraft. He succeeds. After 54,000 kilometers, the 17-year-old ends up back in Europe - and in the Guinness Book of Records.
After a journey of around five months, 17-year-old Mack Rutherford has completed his solo flight around the world - setting the world record as the youngest pilot ever to do so. Rutherford's ultralight aircraft landed at Radomir Airport near the Bulgarian capital Sofia around 4 p.m. local time in the afternoon. "I want to prove that young people can make a difference," Rutherford said after landing.
The youngster with a Belgian and British passport started in Radomir on March 23. He covered more than 54,000 kilometers in his plane - only accompanied by a small teddy bear. Rutherford comes from a family of pilots and piloted an airplane for the first time at the age of seven.
On the ground, Rutherford received the Guinness certificate, which certifies his best performance. He broke the solo record set by 18-year-old Brit Travis Ludlow last year. With his record, Rutherford is also following in the footsteps of his older sister Zara, who at the age of 19 was the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone in an ultralight aircraft. However, she remains the youngest woman to do so - and proved a good loser after her brother landed. She was "very happy" for him, she said.
During his flight, Mack Rutherford had to contend with numerous adversities, including outside temperatures of up to 48 degrees and waiting hours for overflight permits. The most spectacular was probably the emergency landing due to strong winds on the uninhabited island of Attu, which belongs to the Aleutian Islands west of the US state of Alaska.
According to his parents and sister Zara, his provisions were soaked with fuel. Rutherford therefore had to live on chocolate cake. Rutherford's mother, father and sister welcomed the young pilot when he landed in Bulgaria. Mother Béatrice de Smet praised the "enormous self-control" that circumnavigating the world required of her son.
Rutherford's circumnavigation was also made more difficult by the Ukraine war: instead of flying over Russia, the 17-year-old avoided Pakistan, India, South Korea and Japan. From there he flew over the Pacific Ocean in ten hours. This was "the hardest stage," said the pilot. After his return, the teenager now faces the next strenuous task. He had to "go back to school and catch up there," he said.