Zara Rutherford, Round-the-World Pilot, Stuck in Russia

Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford’s bid to become the youngest woman and the first Belgian to fly around the world has run into problems since leaving Los Angeles in late September.

“After the many hiccups of the last weeks (weather, delays of all sorts, upset stomachs, mechanical issues…only three out of 39 flights went entirely according to plan,” she wrote.

Rutherford gearing up to leave. Photo: Zara Rutherford/Instagram


First, after leaving Los Angeles for Seattle, poor visibility from severe wildfires delayed her. She eventually made it to Ketchikan, Alaska on September 23. There, maintenance issues grounded her for a few days. She then flew to Juneau, Anchorage, and Nome. After arriving in Nome on October 1, her next big milestone was the Bering Strait.

Extreme weather and mechanical issues with her plane stalled her crossing into Russia. By the time the weather improved, her Russian visa had expired. She hung about in Nome while the Russian consulate in Houston, Texas renewed her visa. She also received some additional maintenance and modifications (to keep her engine warm as the northern winter settled in) while she waited.

By the time she received her visa on October 9, the weather had crapped out again. She had to stay in Nome until October 31 for the next weather window.

Rutherford finally leaves Nome, Alaska. Photo: Zara Rutherford/Instagram


Crosses Bering Strait, her half-way point

On November 1, she crossed the Bering Strait. This marked the half way point of her journey. The arctic climate tested her little Shark, which had never experienced such low temperatures before. She flew over Siberia to Magadan. Here, she had to wait of further week because of — you guessed it — bad weather.

De-icing in Ayan, Russia. Photo: Zara Rutherford/Instagram


On November 9, she arrived at a town further south called Ayan. She had not planned to stop here, but her plane urgently needed de-icing. She is still stuck there because  of heavy snow. Welcome to winter in Siberia. Next Tuesday, the forecast calls for a severe snowstorm.

Kristine De Abreu is a writer (and occasional photographer) based in sunny Trinidad and Tobago. Since graduating from the University of Leicester with a BA in English and History, she has pursued a full-time writing career, exploring multiple niches before settling on travel and exploration. While studying for an additional diploma in travel journalism with the British College of Journalism, she began writing for ExWeb. Currently, she works at a travel magazine in Trinidad as an editorial assistant and is also ExWeb's Weird Wonder Woman, reporting on the world's natural oddities as well as general stories from the world of exploration. Although she isn't a climber (yet!), she hikes in the bush, has been known to make friends with iguanas and quote the Lord of the Rings trilogy from start to finish.

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5 months ago

Great story. You have to admire the tenacity of this kid. Please keep us posted on her progress once she is back in the air. The last leg of her journey should be very exciting!

Louis-Philippe Loncke
5 months ago

To be clear, her father is British and mum Belgian. There’s no way a belgian teenager would get sponsors (and money) for such a challenge. This comes thanks to her British part. A Belgian would “never” get VIRGIN as a sponsor.

Graham Malcolm
Graham Malcolm
5 months ago

Great story but…..planning……back up…….flying across Russia in late autum she should have checked on the German experience of late Autum in 41 finally she is a professional journalist who will be wanting to sell the story of her fantastic trip y

Vanessa Guilvenec
Vanessa Guilvenec
4 months ago
Reply to  Graham Malcolm

she didn’t plan to pass siberia so late, but due to different delays she arrived there nearly 3 weeks later than planned….. and no, she’s not a journalist, just a teen with dreams and parents who help her to realize dreams.