Written by Staff Writer by by-Staff Writer
By CNN Staff
Young aviator Zara Rutherford was the first Briton to complete a solo flight around the world aboard a small plane.
In 2015, the 18-year-old, then a high school student, flew across Australia — by bicycle across country — in a record time of 22 hours and 29 minutes
Rutherford, who is now a university student in South Wales, is now back on the plane. The European Lion, a small single-engine aircraft, made it’s first-ever all-European flight on Sunday when it reached Seoul, in South Korea.
“I feel I have achieved something at such a young age and I am really proud,” Rutherford said in a statement.
During a stopover in Seoul after eight-day journey around the continent, Rutherford spoke to CNN about her dream of getting to space, the future of flying, and her admiration for South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
CNN: When did you first start dreaming of flying and were there any inspirations or mentors from that?
Zara Rutherford: I used to be a gymnast but I stopped in sixth form because I thought it was getting too hard. I knew I wanted to go into science and aviation. I knew that my dream was to be a pilot.
I know we talk about the pioneers here [in Europe], but I feel like I’m one of them, one of the forerunners. I just had to keep pushing my passion for everything I do.
CNN: What was the hardest thing about the flight in the European Lion?
Rutherford: It was definitely the weather. We were delayed three times because of bad weather and luckily the fourth time we landed in time. But there was that big gust of wind. I thought, ‘this is it, I can’t carry on.” That just kind of showed me it’s not the weather, it’s your mental attitude that matters. So just keep on going.
Rutherford stopped in Seoul on her first-ever trip around Europe in an all-European flight. Credit: Chris Callewaert/Chris Callewaert/MAS
CNN: What do you think about the UK’s referendum on Europe and what do you think is next for the UK?
Rutherford: I think the UK will be OK. I believe the hard work of politicians and people who have believed in what they are doing will pay off.
It’s sad to see the split but I think we have to pick ourselves up from here and do it in our own ways. And we have to find our way out of it. The Brexiteers want to control immigration and I don’t believe that’s going to happen. We are all British.
CNN: Why do you think there are so many people interested in aircraft and aviation in the UK?
Rutherford: The Royal Air Force did so much to inspire this generation. To see those flights around the world and to follow people like Pompidou and Bletchley was an inspiration to me.
There are so many people who came up with the idea and the technology and the planes but it was the RAF that gave it to us and taught us to fly.
You can’t find words to describe what it feels like to see a Spitfire, in the air, over Manchester. It was breathtaking and I never thought I would have the chance to do something like that.
I can’t thank everyone enough who’s got me here and kept me grounded, got me ready for this day and I hope to have a career like [the RAF] and that flying is something I can get to see and experience in the future.
CNN: Have you planned your flying future yet?
Rutherford: I’m going to start flying in my first year university. It’s a real challenge, but I love the challenge of flying.
CNN: Do you have any plans to go into politics?
Rutherford: Hopefully. I think I could do something in politics because you can really make a difference and change the world.
I think South Korea in particular, the way it has evolved, it’s really inspiring. I admire her ability to lead and have an optimistic vision for the future and so many people my age are inspired by that.