Diane Barney, Mojave Air and Space Port Board Director alerted everyone that Zara Rutherford, the youngest woman to attempt a flight around the world solo, would be landing in Mojave on Sept. 13, 2021.
Barney knew Sam Rutherford, Zara’s father, from a previous endeavor called the Vintage Air Rally, Ushuaia2USA. Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Ant·rtida e Islas del Atl·ntico Sur Province, Argentina. Tehachapi resident, Dustin Mosher and Mojave resident, Barney were chosen as one of the four teams from the United States. They were to fly their 1942 Stearman ‘Felix’ in the race.
Rutherford asked Barney if she might talk to Zara about becoming an aerospace engineer. She answered in the affirmative and suggested that she land at Mojave during her round the world flight.
Sam Rutherford is a former British Army pilot who began his flying career at age 13 and soloed when he was 16. Rutherford holds a commercial license in fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter, with more than 3,000 flight hours logged. Zara’s mother, Beatrica, is also a pilot and a lawyer.
According to a website about her father, “Zara has been traveling in small planes since the age of six and began jumping out of it with a parachute at eleven.”
Solo flight began Aug. 18 in Belgium
When airport management heard the news, they were quick to make plans and ready all hands. “We will be at her beck and call,” said Matt Nelson, MASP Airport Ops Manager.
Events surrounding Zara’s arrival included a meet and greet event on the flightline; a press conference in the Board Room, plus tours of the various aerospace firms located at the space port.
Todd Lindner, MASP CEO/General Manager said, “We are very excited to be a part of Miss Rutherford’s journey around the world. We will help her any way possible.”
The Shark Aero is a high-performance two seat tandem ultralight aircraft with retractable gear, a smaller wing, a variable-pitch propeller and first class comfortable cockpit interior. The Shark was designed and constructed as a fast cross-country airplane, built on innovative design and new technologies.
The Shark is powered by a ROTAX 912 ULS 100hp engine running a WOODCOMP two-blade adjustable propeller. It has an exceptional cruising speed of 140 knots.
Jack Northrop Field to Mojave Air and Space Port
The departure flight from Hawthorne, Calif., was delayed a few hours due to a marine layer that made visibility less than three miles. When weather conditions cleared, Rutherford took off and headed for Mojave.
As everyone waited in the Voyager Restaurant and out on the ramp, Diane Barney announced, “She just took off!” Many people watched Zara’s progress on their smart phones with Flight Following. About 30 minutes later, someone shouted, “She’s over Rosamond!”
Excitement grew as everyone went out onto the flightline to get a better view of her landing. A Mojave Air and Space Port fire truck was staged and ready to give her a special welcome.
After landing on Runway 26, Lindner and Matt Nelson, MASP Airport Operations Manager were on the ramp to direct her to parking. As she turned onto Taxiway Charlie with everyone cheering, Fire Chief Damien Farrar turned on the fire cannon, which arched over the top of Zara’s aircraft.
Water droplets were still visible on the Shark ultralight, as 19-year-old Zara taxied to a stop in front of the original Marine Corps Air Station tower at Mojave.
Tehachapi Build-A-Plane students gathered next to Zara and her airplane for a historical group photo.
These high school students have constructed a Zenith Cruzer from a kit. It is now certified and ready to fly.
Rutherford took questions from press and interested folks who are supporting her goal of being the youngest woman to fly around the world solo.
One person asked, “How old were you when you first rode in an airplane?” She answered, “About 3 months, I think.” She told how she flew all over Africa with her father when she was very young and that she took flying lessons in a Cessna 170 and Piper Cherokee PA28.
Everyone was surprised to hear that she only had 130 hours total time solo when she started on her journey around the world. She had so much experience flying with her parents that it seemed natural to want to fly around the world.
When asked what advice she would give to another young woman who wanted to pursue an adventure, she replied, “Just do it.” Laughter filled the room and then a person said, “I think a shoe company already has that tagline.”
Rutherford said that she wants to be an inspiration to other young women and girls to learn to fly, pursue their dreams and careers involving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathamatics).
You can watch Zara’s flight path. Just go to Flyzolo.com and there is a link to Flight Following. As of Sept. 25, she was in Juneau, Alaska.
After the press conference, Barney took Zara into the Voyager Restaurant to see the map or the world that covers the west wall and has the complete route that the Voyager aircraft took in 1968 when Dick Rutan and Yeana Yeager flew around the world non-stop, unrefueled in nine days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
Her face expressed her awe at the sight of that map. Rutherford asked, “How could they do that without stopping for fuel?” Barney told her that the 110-foot wings were full of fuel and after take off, they shut one engine down and flew around the world on one engine. She shook her head in amazement.
Fixing Squawks and Routine Maintenance
Barney stated on a Facebook post, “After entertaining folks who wanted photos, she ran off to set Rick Aldrich and Amy Mulligan on fixing some squawks on her Slovakian two-seater taking her around the world.
“Amy Mulligan is a licensed A&P Mechanic and works at Scaled Composites. Barney and Aldrich thought it would be appropriate to have a female mechanic work on her airplane!
“Then a press conference before being whisked off to tour several aerospace companies. After a couple hours to just breathe; Zara, a videographer, and I piled into my Grumman Tiger to perch over the Central Valley to see the SpaceX launch streak across the night sky out of Vandenberg.”
Barney said, “As tired as she was, Zara (FlyZolo) wanted to see the SpaceX launch out of Vandenberg on Monday night. This is another fun general aviation activity that doesn’t involve $100 hamburgers or pancake breakfasts. The night launches are easily visible even 100 miles away. Launch window was 8:55 p.m. so we timed it so we were over the Central Valley to view it without worrying about terrain. We could see the shape of the plume and when the first stage went out and the second one lit. What a beautiful night for it!”
Rutherford had planned to leave the following day, but smoke from fires made the visibility impossible for her to fly. Barney took her up in the Tiger to see at what altitude the smoke would be clear enough to see. At 6,500-feet it was still too thick to cross the mountains for her intended route to Palo Alto, Calif. It wasn’t clear until 8,000 feet, but there was no visibility to the ground. One more day on the ground to be safe.
She departed at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday morning and made a safe flight to Palo Alto. Everyone at Mojave Air and Space Port wished Zara (FlyZolo) the very best on her continued journey around the world.