Mack Rutherford (17) follows in his sister Zara’s footsteps and is the youngest pilot to fly around the world in a single-engine plane

Mack Rutherford made a successful landing this afternoon, Monday, August 22, at 14.15 with its superlight Shark plane at Kortrijk-Wevelgem airport. 140 days after he left Sofia on March 23, where he hopes to arrive within two days. He was still 16 when he left, on June 21 he turned 17. Still young enough to become the youngest pilot to fly a single-engine plane around the world. Earlier this year, his sister Zara already pulled off that stunt when she became the youngest female pilot in the world to fly around the world in the same plane. She was still 19 when she landed in Wevelgem on 22 January.

Like his sister, Mack was born in Kortrijk, the son of Beatrice De Smet and Briton Sam Rutherford. His grandmother Anne De Smet – Vlieghe still lives there. They were all there in Wevelgem. The Rutherford family lives in Sint-Genesius-Rode, where the parents run Prepare2go, his parents’ business in Sint-Genesius-Rode, a company that specializes in transporting light aircraft around the world. Mack goes to school in the British town of Sherborne. He will soon start his final year in the humanities. Beatrice De Smet confessed to us in Wevelgem that she had long resisted Mack’s plan to fly around the world. “I thought he was still too young.”

Paper donkeys

Mack hoped to complete his record attempt much faster than his sister. It took Zara 155 days, Mack hoped for 90. The sour weather gods grounded Zara more often than desired. Mack was previously opposed to the political situation and the many newspapers. Because his route was changed at the last minute – and was similar to the route Zara originally wanted to take – people were not familiar with landing permits in certain countries and the whole process was a bit disappointing. “The world is not the same as it was six months ago,” said Beatrice De Smet. “I don’t need to tell you what the war brought.” Mack is not the same anymore. He traveled as a boy, in Wevelgem we saw a young man well on his way to becoming a man.

Mack in Wevelgem. Like her sister, the young British Belgian was decorated with British and Belgian flags on arrival a few months ago. © KVdm

To avoid Russia, Mack planned to fly through Asia and not South America like her sister. A very different course. He also did the circuit in the opposite direction to his sister. He had been gone for barely a week when he stopped in Italy because he was not allowed to fly over Algeria. When he flew to Greece and wanted to fly from there to Egypt, he was stuck again. He ended up in Greece for a month and later in Dubai for another month. As a result, the whole process, like his sister’s, took 5 months.

Scared in the Sahara

But Mack kept his cool. “He is the most solid, the most British of the family,” said his mother, after he had just landed. “Sometimes he was too calm.” But once he lost his cool, he confessed to us shortly after landing in Wevelgem. “When I flew over Egypt to Sudan over the Sahara, I learned that I had to fly over Egypt at least 2,500 meters. A very high altitude for an ultralight aircraft. The extra fuel tank that allowed me to cover long distances didn’t work. I was already looking for a place to make an emergency landing when it turned out that the extra tank was not taking off precisely because I was flying at such a high altitude. Fortunately, when I crossed the border into Sudan and could fly lower, the idea worked again.”

Robinson Crusoe

Meanwhile, Mack is also one of the few people who can say he spent a night on a desert island. “When I was flying from Japan to America, a flight that was supposed to take 11 hours, I suddenly suffered from a strong headwind and it also got dark quickly. You can’t fly in the dark with such a light aircraft, so I fled to the island of Attu in the North Pacific. A deserted and completely uninhabited island.” Truly a Robinson Crusoe adventure.

Mack with his sister Zara.
Mack with his sister Zara. © KVdm

Zara started her record attempt in Wevelgem and also arrived. But Mack chose Sofia because his sole sponsor, ICDSoft, is headquartered there. The Bulgarian company is an internet provider and previously co-sponsored Zara’s world record attempt.

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