A 16-year-old British schoolboy is bidding to become the youngest person ever to fly around the world solo.
Mack Rutherford is due to begin his epic flight in a Shark ultralight plane from an air strip in Sofia, Bulgaria, on March 17.
His 19-year-old sister ,Zara, became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world last month.
Mack’s trip will take in 30 countries and involves crossing the Atlantic, Siberia and the Sahara Desert on a once-in-a-lifetime journey.
He will reach speeds of 300 kilometres an hour and expects the trip to take between two and three months.
He wants to become the youngest person ever to fly around the world, a record currently held by another Brit, Travis Ludlow, who completed the jurney last year, aged 18.
Mack, who lives on the outskirts of Brussels, Belgium with his parents, was inspired to fly by his 49-year-old dad Sam.
His mum Beatrice de Smet, 52, also quit her career as a lawyer to become a recreational pilot.
Mack has been aeroplane-mad since he was a three-year-old boy and was first given the controls on a jet when he was just seven years old.
Back then he was ‘really scared’ but his passion for flying has just ‘grown and grown and grown’ since.
He knew he wanted to become a pilot at age ten and in July 2020 he became the youngest person in the world to get a flying licence just weeks after his fifteenth birthday.
During the last two years he has crossed the Atlantic twice in a plane- once from Portsmouth to an air base in Ohio and again from Toronto to Cambridge.
He says he was inspired to take the trip when his sister got back from her voyage, but insists he was not motivated by sibling rivalry.
His mum had to be talked round to the idea because he is younger than Zara was when she set off on her trip.
Mack, who attends boarding school in Dorset, says he will have plenty of schoolwork to catch up on when he returns and returns to studying for his A levels in Biology, Economics and History.
He says he is lucky that life at school remains normal and, while his friends occasionally ask about his adventures, it does not take up every conversation.
Once he finishes, he wants to fly professionally and has eyed up a job in the RAF but has not ruled out other possibilities.
He said: ”On 17 March I plan to start my journey around the world. I want to be the youngest person ever to fly around the world solo.
‘’It is going to take me two or three months to complete the trip through 30 countries.
‘’I have been preparing for the trip for nine months. It only started when my sister began her journey around the world, which made me think ‘I can do that too.’
‘’I am hoping to show young people they can make a difference. People often say, ‘what are you going to do when you are older?’. I want to do something special before then.
‘’The youngest person to have flown around the world so far is 18-year-old Travis Ludlow. I hope I can get it done at 16.
‘’I first flew when I was seven. Obviously, I was quite scared at that point. Since then, I have loved it and I got my licence when I was 15.
‘’I have been flying all my life and it has been my passion. When I was ten, I decided I wanted to become a pilot.
‘’When I was seven, I first took control of a plane. I was really scared but since then my passion for flying has just grown and grown and grown.
‘’I really love to fly. The best thing about it is the freedom it gives you.
‘’When you go out and fly there is quite a lot to think about. I must have fuel, somewhere to stay and I needed a sponsor before I went out, which I now have.
‘’It is hard to describe the feeling when you set off into the air, but it is freeing.
‘’In a car you are limited by the road, but in a plane you are not.
‘’In a plane you can go as fast as you like and you can go where you want, when you want and there is something very special about that.
‘’My entire family have been really encouraging. At the beginning it was difficult to convince my parents I should do it. Since then, they have been really supportive.
‘’Zara has been helping me quite a lot. She knows how I am feeling, and she told me ‘now is the best time to fly.’ She knows I am doing something special.
‘’I don’t want to miss too much school, but I will have a lot of catching up to do.
‘’Luckily, school is still quite normal. My friends think I am doing something special but luckily, we don’t have to talk about it too much. They just ask me about whether I have done my homework or that sort of thing.
‘’My friends are still the same, I don’t know if they know how much flying I do!
‘’Sometimes they comment and say, ‘that is really cool!’ but then we carry on our conversation as normal.
‘’That is really nice, it is nice to have the same life at school.
‘’Along the way I will stay with local families in some places but in other places I will stay in hotels.
‘’Mostly when I am up there in the air, I am thinking about practical things like ‘is this engine okay? Do I have enough fuel?’
‘’When I am doing take-off I am really focused on making sure everything is right. I can’t get too emotional.
‘’When I relax, I am able to sit back and look around and I think ‘wow, this is amazing.’
‘’The route I am taking starts in Sofia, Bulgaria. I will cross the Sahara and the Congo before swerving round into Yemen and Oman.
‘’I will then go across Iran and up to Central Asia before crossing Russia and Siberia, before crossing the Baring Strait and going across Canada, Iceland, Scotland, and England before returning to Sofia.
‘’Staying with local families means food should be easy and I should always be able to find a restaurant to go to when I’m on my own.
‘’I have no idea what the food will be like in some of these places, but I am not worried about what the food will be like anywhere.
‘’I am looking forward to immersing myself in the cultures and it will be interesting to meet people who live completely different lives to the ones we lead.
‘’During the trip there will be some things that I will miss like a bowl of pasta or a lazy afternoon in front of the TV, which I might want instead of being constantly busy.
‘’Most of the time I am going to be happy out there.
‘’Usually, each flight will take around four hours but some of the longer ones will take up eight hours.
‘’I try to go to the loo before but luckily, I have a pot I can go in on board if it gets desperate.
‘’The biggest challenges will be crossing oceans such as the Atlantic.
‘’If something goes wrong on an eight-hour trip there is nothing you can do about it, you can’t go. You can’t land at a different airport; you just have the sea behind you.
‘’I have been doing lots of flying training for around nine months. I have had my licence for a year and a half and have crossed the Atlantic twice, which is one of the most difficult crossings.
‘’I will be training constantly in the next few weeks to get me ready and feeling comfortable.
‘’I have always known I wanted to do something special in aviation. My sister did her trip and now I am doing mine which I wanted to do.
‘’I know if you work hard, things will come good eventually.
‘’Flying is a family thing and my family have inspired me; I have been flying with my dad for my whole life.
‘’In the future I want to carry on flying. I want to be in something like the Air Force, but I don’t know exactly yet. Being a commercial pilot is not for me.
‘’I did the transatlantic flights over the last two years- the first was from Portsmouth to Ohio and the second was from Toronto to Cambridge.
‘’The idea for the flight was my own. I don’t have any rivalry with my sister.
‘’I knew I wanted to do something special in aviation and after she went around the world I thought ‘that was really cool.’
‘’My family are not competitive among ourselves.
‘’When I am not flying or doing schoolwork, I like playing tennis with friends or kicking a football about. I support Chelsea.
‘’I have not felt like I have had to sacrifice anything to do what I do. Flying has always been part of my life.’’