RIAD: Zara Rutherford, who is trying to become the youngest woman to fly around the world on her own, landed her light Shark plane at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on Thursday.
“I’m 100 percent honest with Saudi Arabia about its natural beauty. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before. I’m not used to the desert at all and seeing Saudi Arabia was really shocking and breathtaking to me, ”Rutherford told Arab News.
“The people were very nice; When I got here, I received a very warm and warm welcome, ”she said.
The 19-year-old Anglo-Belgian pilot began her mission around the world because of her passion for aviation. Rutherford aims to encourage women in the aviation industry and inspire people around the world to make their dreams come true, no matter how impossible they may seem.
“I’ve always loved flying. I’m very fortunate that my parents are both pilots, so I grew up with aviation. For me it was just the greatest adventure and my greatest dream to fly around the world, ”said Rutherford.
At first she thought her adventurous dream was completely impossible.
“I thought it was too expensive and too complicated so I never really thought about it realistically and then I graduated from high school and realized that this is the perfect opportunity to do something crazy and fly around the world” , she said.
While all of her friends were planning their freshman year at university, Rutherford funded sponsorships and mapped her flight around the globe.
As a solo traveler, Rutherford said it can get lonely with no one sitting behind you on the plane to talk to, but it gives her plenty of time to think, enjoy the scenery, and listen to her favorite podcasts.
On her journey to the kingdom, she said, she traveled from Dubai to Bahrain and crossed to Riyadh.
“It was great, that was a four and a half hour flight, and it was really easy and nice, then it went straight to Tabuk from Riyadh,” she said.
“I loved Saudi Arabia; it is a beautiful country that is almost only flown over today. It’s amazing how different deserts can be. To see the sand change color from dunes to rocks, it’s breathtaking, it’s very beautiful, ”she said.
Zara Rutherford, the youngest woman to fly alone in the world, landed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on Thursday.
Upon arriving in Riyadh, Rutherford was greeted by an event organized by the Saudi Aviation Club, led by HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and the Riyadh Airports Company.
“I met HRH yesterday and it was amazing. He’s also a pilot and has a great interest in aviation and shared some of his stories with me about flying in Saudi Arabia and around the world, ”she said.
“He’s a lot more experienced than me. It was really great to be able to speak to another pilot and he was very welcoming and very nice, ”she said.
Upon her arrival in Riyadh, she was also greeted by the Belgian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Her Excellency Ms. Dominique Mineur.
“We were very proud to welcome young Zara Rutherford to Riyadh on her groundbreaking journey around the world,” the ambassador told Arab News.
She said Rutherford visited Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University to speak to female students.
“She had the opportunity to meet young Saudi female students from PNU and share their incredible experiences flying around the globe with them. She shared her passion for aviation and we hope this will stimulate the younger generation more to develop their interest in STEM, ”she said.
On her flight from Riyadh to Tabuk, Rutherford held altitudes between 1,000 and 4,000 feet above ground. She said there wasn’t much turbulence when she went after sunrise, and she kept a low altitude to admire the scenery below. Later in the day, due to the heat and turbulence, it had to increase its altitude to 4,000 to ensure a smoother flight.
“I’ve seen a lot of different things fly to Tabuk; I’ve seen camels. I’ve never really seen camels so that was really exciting for me, ”she said.
Rutherford wants to inspire others to make their dreams come true, no matter how impossible or difficult it may seem.
“If you have a passion that you don’t quite fit, for example a woman who likes aviation, you stand out.
“In the beginning as a girl that scared me off from aviation because when you’re a girl you usually don’t want to attract attention; you want to fit in with your friends, ”she said.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what others think, it’s important that you do what you want and what makes you happy. Don’t let others dictate what you want to do with your life, ”said Rutherford.
“With all this press I’ve gotten, I can encourage more girls to get into aviation. When I was growing up there weren’t many other girls or pilots and I thought it was a shame and it’s nice to have people to look up to. I hope I can change that, ”she said.
“Now I’ll be home in just six days, which is a really strange feeling because I haven’t been home in five months, so six days is pretty close,” she said.
Rutherford aims to break two Guinness Book of Records for the youngest solo pilot to travel the world and the first Belgian to do it alone.