Avoid typhoon in the Philippines. Check. Steer clear of massive California wildfires. Check. Keep away from test missiles in North Korea. What? Wait.
As teenage pilot Zara Rutherford flew ever onward in a record-challenging global odyssey, she met little as strange or scary as when she tried to squeeze in between North Korean airspace and a massive cloud threatening to cut off passage for her ultralight plane.
“Well, they test missiles once in a while without warning,” Rutherford said.
She was just 15 minutes from flying over one of the last places one should enter uninvited, so she radioed her control team to ask if she could cut the corner over the isolationist communist dictatorship on her way to Seoul.
“Straight away they said: ‘Whatever you do, do not go into North Korean airspace,’” Rutherford said.
Fortunately the clouds cooperated enough and she did not have to continue the crash course in applied geopolitics.
At the age of 19, she was yesterday set to land her single-seater Shark sport aircraft in Kortrijk, Belgium, more than 150 days after setting out to become the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo.
US aviator Shaesta Waiz was 30 when she set the previous benchmark.
Flying runs in her blood, as both her parents are pilots and she has been traveling in small planes since she was six.
At 14, she started flying herself and about 130 hours of solo flights prepped her for the record attempt, which she hopes will also have a bigger meaning.
With the final touchdown in a plane that looks like a fly among the giants parked at international airports, the Belgian-British teenager wants to infuse young women and girls worldwide with the spirit of aviation — and an enthusiasm for studies in the exact sciences, mathematics, engineering and technology.
Two statistics stand out for her — only 5 percent of commercial pilots and 15 percent of computer scientists are women.
“The gender gap is huge,” she said.
However, once the canopy closed over her cockpit and another six to eight-hour flight began, lofty thoughts of global outreach receded as she concentrated on one lonely individual — herself.
Using Visual Flight Rules, basically going on sight only, danger lurked even closer than when she would be able to use fancy navigational instruments to lead her through the night, clouds or fog.
Crossing northern California from Palo Alto toward Seattle, she headed into huge wildfires. The higher she climbed to avoid the smoke — up to 3km — the tougher it was to keep her eyes on the ground.
“The smoke was building up and up, to the point that the whole cabin stank of smoke and I could not see anything but a burnished orange color,” Rutherford said.
She had to abort her route and make an unscheduled landing in Redding, California.
Over Siberia, the light played tricks on her vision, sometimes casting doubt whether she saw mountains or clouds.
“And for me clouds are a really big deal. Especially in Russia,” with its biting cold, Rutherford said.
Cutting through such clouds, too much ice might build up on her wings, paralyzing control.
“At that point your plane is no longer a plane,” she said.
The project would have been tough enough normally, but the COVID-19 pandemic added another complication — which indirectly led to the North Korean adventure.
Alternative plans to fly over China to Seoul were ditched when the Chinese refused permission citing COVID-19, which, Rutherford said “was slightly frustrating because I’m in the plane at 6,000 feet [1,800m]. I’d be very impressed if I could pass on COVID like this.”
She stopped over in Taipei on Dec. 14 and 15 last year.
Overall, bad weather, a flat tire and visa issues added another two months to the planned three-month project.
However, she spoke dreamily of the Saudi Arabian desert with its changing colors of sand and rock, the barrenness of northern Alaska, the huge circular Apple Park in Cupertino, California, or the sight of what has been called the world’s loneliest house on Iceland’s deserted island of Ellioaey.
She has also come to appreciate some simpler pleasures too.
“Before, it was — yeah — it was about the grand adventure, but actually I think, you know, watching TV with your cat has its special things as well. It is very unique as well,” she said.
A glimpse of a possible Picasso in the home of Imelda Marcos filmed during a visit by her son after his presidential election win has set off a flurry of speculation in the Philippines, where the family that once plundered billions is set to return to power. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator, won a landslide victory in Monday’s presidential election, an outcome that has appalled those who survived his father’s regime. Images released by the family showed Marcos Jr visiting the home of his mother, who had displayed Picasso’s Femme Couche VI (Reclining Woman VI),
The images of a besuited Ferdinand Marcos Jr, clad in a top hat and leaning nonchalantly on a Rolls-Royce, dating from his time in Britain in the 1970s, are as you might expect from the playboy scion of a kleptocratic dictator. Yet as the Marcos family returns to power in the Philippines after a landslide presidential victory by Marcos Jr, he is facing calls to stop misrepresenting the circumstances of his studies at the University of Oxford. The university has confirmed that he did not complete his degree in philosophy, politics and economics after enrolling in 1975. “According to our records, he did
HATE CRIME: Officials were investigating a detailed ‘manifesto’ posted online before the livestreamed shooting, in which the suspect outlined his reasoning and plans A heavily armed 18-year-old white man on Saturday shot 10 people dead at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a “racially motivated” attack that he livestreamed on camera, authorities said. The gunman, who was wearing body armor and a helmet, was arrested after the massacre, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news conference. Gramaglia put the toll at 10 dead and three wounded. Eleven of the victims were African Americans. The gunman shot four people in the parking lot of the Tops supermarket, three of them fatally, then went inside and continued firing, Gramaglia said. Among those killed inside the store was
CALIBRATED RESPONSE: The city-state has learned from its past experiences of dealing with COVID-19 variants to assess the situation and the risks, the transport minister said Singapore will strive to keep its borders open and stay connected to the rest of world even if a new variant of COVID-19 emerges, Singaporean Minister for Transport S. Iswaran said on Wednesday. The city-state has learned from its past experiences of dealing with COVID-19 variants, Iswaran said in an interview with Bloomberg News. When the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 hit, Singapore did not backtrack on its reopening plans, but rather decided to wait and see how things panned out, he said, adding that the response was different versus the Delta outbreak. “We’ve all learned to adapt,” Iswaran said on the sidelines