Zara Rutherford, 19-Year-Old Round-the-World Pilot, Reaches Los Angeles

Zara Rutherford has been busy lately. Just the usual teenage stuff, posting on social media and circumnavigating the world.

The young flyer has followed a frantic schedule since leaving her native Belgium in August. So far, she has flown to the United Kingdom, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, the East Coast of the United States, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Yesterday, September 12, she arrived safely at SpaceX, Los Angeles. 

On September 5, Rutherford achieved a milestone in her circumnavigation. She arrived at her first antipodal point. This is one of the two points on Earth that are directly opposite of each other. Touching two antipodal points is one of the official requirements in circumnavigating the world.

While her initial chosen points were the towns of Tumaco, Colombia and Jambi, Indonesia, bad weather changed her plans. In the end, she picked the town of Quibdo (still in Colombia) and Jakarta, Indonesia.

Zara Rutherford in Mexico. Photo: Zara Rutherford


Quibdo also happens to be the world’s rainiest city. She was grounded for two days but managed to find a window of good weather to escape. She expects to arrive at the second antipodal point in the middle of October. 

During her travels, she had close calls with thunderstorms and felt Mexico’s 7.1 earthquake. At the same time, she met with various organizations, diplomats, and even Richard Branson to promote aviation and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for young women.

In Spaceport America, New Mexico, she noticed that her airspeed indicator was not functioning properly. Her pitot tube, a device that measures flow speed, was blocked and likely to cause other issues if she continued flying. However, she managed to arrive in Los Angeles safely.

Zara Rutherford in Spaceport America. Photo: Zara Rutherford