While most teenagers are simply hoping to get their driver’s license, 17-year-old Mack Rutherford has had far loftier goals. The ambitious teen sought to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. After five months and a day, Rutherford—who pledged not to cut his hair until he arrived home from the flight—successfully achieved the incredible feat.
In March 2022, when he was still 16, Rutherford took off on his adventure. He began and ended his journey at an airport near Sophia, Bulgaria. Rutherford flew a Shark—a high-performance ultralight aircraft—that he affectionately calls Sharky. His exhilarating journey around the world tested his metal in the skies through monsoons, extreme temperatures, and the bureaucracy of the 52 countries he traveled through.
Rutherford's longest flight on this epic journey was from Japan to the U.S., which took him 10 hours over water. The highest altitude he had to face was 12,500 feet over Mexico. He flew across four continents, 30 countries, and in weather extremes ranging from -12 °C (10.4 °F) to 48 °C (118.4 °F).
After everything, Rutherford and Sharky landed safely in Sofia on August 24. He arrived home to discover he’d broken two Guinness world records: he is the youngest person ever to fly around the world solo, and also the youngest person to do it in an ultralight aircraft.
This incredible achievement at such a young age is certainly worth celebrating and his family might be the perfect people to fully appreciate it. Rutherford’s own father is a professional pilot. This sparked an interest in aviation for the young Rutherford who has had a burning passion to fly since he was 11. He wowed the world by becoming the youngest pilot ever at age 15, when he received his microlight pilot's license. And Mack's sister, Zara Rutherford, recently completed a similar solo journey and holds her own world record as the youngest female pilot to complete a solo flight around the world, and she's also the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in a microlight aircraft.
“I’m very happy to have been able to complete my five-month journey around the world, and I’m back in Sofia safely and successfully,” a beaming Rutherford told the world when he landed. “It took a bit longer than it was supposed to, but I landed … everything is completely fine. I’m definitely going to miss flying, but also with this journey I’m trying to show that young people can make a difference. You don’t have to be eighteen to do something special; just follow your dreams and they’ll eventually come true.”
17-year-old Mack Rutherford just became the youngest person ever to complete a solo flight around the world.
Rutherford's amazing journey that started and ended in Sofia, Belgium, took five months and one day.
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Watch this video to hear Rutherford's relief and exhilaration on his final landing:
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