TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As part of her quest to become the youngest woman to fly around the world solo, a British-Belgian teenager on Tuesday (Dec. 14) landed in Taipei, where she was greeted by staff bearing gifts from Taiwan.
After a four and a half hour flight from Seoul, Zara Rutherford, 19, landed her custom-made Shark ultralight plane at Taipei's Songshan Airport at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The moment she landed, she was greeted by ground crew members in PPE who immediately handed her a cap, mask, bubble tea, and sign that read "Welcome to TSA. Welcome to Taiwan."
In an Instagram post that day, Rutherford wrote that she was grateful to have "finally reached warm temperatures." She thanked the ground crew for their warm welcome and gave them a "10/10 service" score for gifting her with the bubble tea.
Rutherford's slogan "Fly Zolo" visible under wings. (CNA photo)
When asked by CNA what she thought of the sacchariferous drink, Rutherford said she thought the tapioca pearls looked a bit unusual but that she really liked it. She said her flight from Seoul to Taipei was smoother than expected because she had run into rougher weather over the past few weeks as well as encountering visa issues, at one point finding herself stranded in Russia in minus 35 degree Celsius weather.
She said Taiwan has "perfect temperatures" and is beautiful from above, particularly its mountains and cityscape. Rutherford, who stayed in an epidemic prevention hotel near the airport, said that although she could not venture out, she was looking forward to a Taiwanese-style dinner of "sweet and sour pork ribs."
Rutherford lands at Taipei Songshan Airport. (CNA photo)
Upon arrival, she was also given a hat that read "Favorable Wind Flying Club" (順風飛行俱樂部). She said that although she did not understand the Chinese, she was excited to see it had her motto "Fly Zolo" imprinted on the side.
Rutherford began her 51,000-kilometer globe-trotting journey on Aug. 18 in Belgium. Her trip will span five continents and 52 countries during an epic gap year.
Ground crew greets Rutherford with gifts. (CNA photo)
Her goal is to set Guinness World Records as the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe and the youngest person to do so in a microlight aircraft. The current record for a female is held by Afghan American pilot Shaesta Wais, who accomplished the feat at the age of 30 in 2017, while the youngest male is British teenager Travis Ludlow, who did so in July at the age of 18 years and 150 days.
Rutherford stated on her website that she had taken up the challenge to "encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams." She also has the goal of reducing "the gender gap in Aviation as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)."
At 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning (Dec. 15), Rutherford took off on a flight to her next stop — the Philippines.
Rutherford holds up bubble tea drink. (CNA photo)