16-year-old pilot on a mission to break solo flying record lands in Nairobi

From left: Hope, youngest female pilot in Kenya, Kevin Githinji, Managing Director of Dronect Academy, Mack Rutherford and Peter Irungu an Aeronautical Engineer at Kenya School of Flying, Wilson Airport.

Photo credit: Josephine Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Meet 16-year-old Mack Rutherford, who has been flying around the world in a bid to break the current world record of the youngest person to fly solo around the world.

Speaking to the Nation at Wilson Airport on May 18, the young pilot, who was born in Winchester, England, said he was ecstatic to land in Nairobi as he had always wanted to visit the city.

Inspired by his sister Zara Rutherford, who was in January named the youngest female pilot to fly around the world at the age of 19, Mack hopes to inspire young people and show the world that young people are capable of reaching extraordinary lengths.

“My inspiration comes from my passion for flying and also the motivation and support I receive from my family. My sister has also been a figure of inspiration as she is currently the youngest female to fly across the world,” he said.

At 16, Mack would be expected to juggle school work and his dream of flying across the world, but the teenager said that for now he is unable to concentrate on school.

“It’s quite difficult. School right now is not really working for me. I’m going to have to catch up on it some other day, so for the next one and a half years for me I have a lot to catch up on. But all in all, it’s worth it to be out and live life,” he said.

He added: “I want to show that young people can make a difference. You don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to do something extraordinary. Just nurture your dream and you’ll get there.”

The young pilot said he has 25 more countries to visit to complete his trip around the world and that his only hope right now is that he will accomplish his mission.

The teenager noted that the United Arab Emirates and some parts of the United States are key places to fly through.

25 more countries to fly to

“My hope and current goal is to finish this trip successfully. There is no end game. You just keep flying and doing it while loving it without placing a limit. I have 25 more countries to fly to, some of which include Zanzibar, Madagascar, Seychelles, UAE, India, Mexico, and Canada,” he said.

Mack started his journey in Sofia, Bulgaria, flying a ‘Shark’, a high-performance ultralight aircraft with a cruising speed reaching 300km/hr. He chose the plane because of its performance and adaptability, speed and flight systems.

“I chose to use a Shark because it is faster, easier and fun to use. Also in consideration, I was quite fascinated by the software and general systems as they are more advanced,” he said.

If successful, Mack will become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone in an aircraft. This title is now held by Travis Ludlow, who was 18 when he completed his journey last year.

Hailing from a well-off family of aviation enthusiasts, Mack started his flying journey at a tender age when he used to watch his father fly but only came close to handling a plane at age seven.

He received his flight licence aged 15, at which point he was determined to achieve more at a young age.

“I’ve been flying pretty much my whole life. At seven is when I first held a craft controller and got my licence at 15.”

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