Mack Rutherford, 17, breaks sister's record as youngest person to fly round world

Sibling Zara was one of her brother's biggest fans as he tried to beat her achievement

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A teenage pilot touched down in Bulgaria on Wednesday to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world in a small aircraft — breaking his sister’s record.

Mack Rutherford, 17, landed at an airstrip near Sofia, to complete the flight and claim two Guinness World Records.

He is the youngest person to fly around the world by himself and the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe in an ultralight plane.

His sister, Zara, who finished her own trip global flight in January at 19, previously held the ultralight record.

Mack, a joint British-Belgian national, said he hoped his achievement would inspire young people to pursue their dreams.

“Just follow your dreams, no matter how old you are — work hard and move forward to achieve your goals,” he said.

His sister said she was one of his biggest fans, even as he tried to take her record.

Zara Rutherford welcomes her brother Mack home. EPA

“While he was flying, I constantly tried to keep in touch and help him. Our parents called him every day, and I joined in those conversations. I gave him advice on the route, on the flight, so that I could be useful to him,” she said.

Mack took the age record from Travis Ludlow of Britain, who was 18 when he made a solo flight around the world last year.

The circumnavigation, which began March 23, took Mack through 52 countries and across five continents. He turned 17 during the trip. To set a mark recognised by the Guinness World Records, he crossed the equator twice.

Mack Rutherford approaches to land at Buzet airfield in Pont-a-Celles, in Belgium. AP

Born into a family of aviators, Mack qualified for his pilot’s license in 2020, which at the time, made him the youngest pilot in the world, at the age of 15.

His solo trip flying around the world kicked off in Bulgaria because his sponsor, the web hosting company ICDSoft, is headquartered in Sofia and lent him the plane.

Like his sister, Mack flew a Shark Aero, one of the fastest ultralight aircraft in the world with a cruising speed reaching 300 kilometres an hour.

Normally a two-seater, it was modified for his long journey by replacing the second seat with an extra fuel tank.

Initially planned to take up to three months, the trip lasted longer because of several unexpected obstacles along his way, including monsoon rains, sandstorms and extreme heat.

But most of the delays were caused by waits to obtain permits and other documents required for further flight or having to alter the scheduled route if they were rejected.

The flight took him through Africa and the Gulf region to India, China, South Korea and Japan. He crossed the northern Pacific and landed after 10 uninterrupted hours in the air on a volcanic island near the Bering Strait.

From there, he headed to Alaska and down the west coast of the US to Mexico. Rutherford then headed north again along the US east coast to Canada, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

On Wednesday, a huge crowd of people had arrived at the airport to welcome Rutherford and to celebrate his achievements. Among them were the three members of his immediate family.

His father, Sam Rutherford, said he was extremely happy and proud of his children’s achievements.

Updated: August 24, 2022, 8:38 PM