Vanessa Moerman & Guido Bouckaert
On 20 January ‘22 Zara Rutherford achieved her world record, amid great public interest, at my home-based airport of Kortrijk-Wevelgem. “At age 19, she became the youngest female pilot to fly solo around the world and the first person to complete a circumnavigation in a microlight aircraft after a five-month journey which began in Kortrijk, Belgium, on 18 August 2021, and ended on 20 January 2022’ says Wikipedia about Zara.
This achievement is close to my heart. I myself have already promoted my ‘ladies, it’s time to fly’ campaign several times. I have also been organising Rotary Kruishoutem’s STEM project ‘Science and Technology’ for a number of years. With this initiative, we try to convince young people to choose a technical-scientific track in order to help our companies find enough qualified technical staff.
The aviation world has a hero or heroes, writes Guide Bouckaert. Zara Rutherford, 19 years old, born in Kortrijk, daughter of a British father and a Belgian mother. Zara landed back at Int’l Airport Kortrijk-Wevelgem on 20 January 2022 after her record-breaking flight, having left there on 18 August 2021. Her record-breaking flight around the world solo and in an ultra high-performance ultra-light aircraft Shark (VH: 295 km/h) enjoyed worldwide interest and spanned 52 countries and five continents. Her flight log added up to +200 hours.
Everywhere Zara Rutherford landed on her trip around the world, she was exuberantly greeted, also by dignitaries such as ambassadors and ministers, however not at Kortrijk where she was accompanied until landing by four Marchetti’s from Bevekom AFB (the Red Devils) ending with an appreciated bomb burst.
Zara was a guest of tycoon Richard Branson and his daughter Holly, but also in educational institutions where she encouraged young ladies to study science, technology,… engineering and mathematics (STEM).
It was an emotional reunion for some 450 spectators in Kortrijk, not least for father, mother and brother, all pilots.
On her arrival, Zara said: “Yes, I am a different person, I feel more mature. Now a whole series of invitations await her, after which the young lady will study in the US, hoping to become an astronaut, perhaps for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic?