A teen on an epic global journey stopped in Montreal Wednesday morning.
Zara Rutherford, a 19-year-old Belgian-British pilot, is trying to become the youngest woman to ever fly around the world all alone. She hopes to inspire a new generation of girls to get interested in aviation while doing it, and is gradually accomplishing that mission with every stop on her tour.
Rutherford landed at Saint-Hubert Airport just south of Montreal around noon Wednesday, and was greeted by a water cannon salute and an adoring crowd of aviation students and enthusiasts. She was hosted by representatives from the École nationale d’aérotechnique.
“Thank you so much for this welcome from the so many people here,” Rutherford said. “It’s been really amazing. Every time I stop there is more and more people, so who knows what’s going to happen in Asia?”
Montreal is the 9th out of 52 cities on five continents Rutherford plans to land in by Nov. 3.
She started her journey in Belgium one week ago, with stops in the United Kingdom, Iceland and Greenland before most recently spending time in Goose Bay, Newfoundland. Rutherford remarked on the extreme heat in Montreal, after being in one of the world’s coldest places just days before.
“This is a dream I’ve had for a long time,” she said of her journey. “I told my parents about it and they’re like, ‘yeah, let’s do this. We’ll find sponsors, we’ll make it work, but we’re going to help you through it.'” Rutherford said the entire endeavour is being payed for by sponsors she solicited on her own.
Both her parents are pilots, so she’s very comfortable in the air. There were some anxious moments flying over icy, barren Greenland, however.
“I was thinking, ‘please don’t crash, please don’t crash. Engine, please don’t stop, please don’t stop,'” she recounted.
In the cockpit, Zara calms herself with YouTube and podcasts and flies on, because she has a mission even more important than breaking the record,
“When I grew up, there weren’t many girls in aviation or STEM — science, engineering and mathematics. I’m hoping that with my flight, I can, you know, show girls, ‘look, here’s a girl flying. You’re not alone.”
Maya Cantin, 21, studies aerospace engineering at École nationale d’aérotechnique, and said she is amazed by Rutherford’s trip. At Cantin’s school, men outnumber women 10 to one.
“Her trip is very, very inspiring,” Cantin told Global News.
Pilot Sandrine Gressard acted as a fixer for Rutherford in Montreal, and said young girls need role models to break into the business.
She said only 14 per cent of student pilots are women, and that Rutherford’s mission will do wonders for women and girls.
“It shows the young girls that these role models that are older than them, they’ve done it. It’s like a proof that if we can do it, so can they,” Gressard said.
Rutherford will continue her tour in New York City on Thursday. She plans to go to university after her trip, and planned to check out some schools in Montreal during her stay.