Zara Rutherford listened to Billie Eilish to help her through record breaking solo flight

Rutherford beat the previously record holder, aged 30, to become the. youngest woman to fly solo around the world
Rutherford beat the previously record holder, aged 30, to become the. youngest woman to fly solo around the world Copyright AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
By Tim Gallagher with Reuters
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The teenager says the hardest part of her trip was flying over Siberia but a 40-hour playlist kept her going through the frozen arctic.


Record breaking pilot Zara Rutherford has said listening to Billie Eilish helped her through the hardest parts of her round the world solo flight.

Rutherford, who is the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, said she had a 40-hour playlist of hits including the hit gen Z musician, which came in handy when she flew over Siberia.

"I had this huge playlist with about 40 hours worth of songs that I would just shuffle, just to try and have new songs all the time because it gets really boring just listening to the same songs over and over again,” Rutherford said.

Jordan Strauss/2021 Invision
Eilish's album, "Happier Than Ever" is nominated for two Grammy awardsJordan Strauss/2021 Invision

“I listened to Billie Eilish a lot, especially when I was stuck in Russia, her new album, and I think if I listen to one of those songs again it'll trigger some memories from then."

Eilish’s album “Happier than Ever” is nominated for two Grammy award, with the ceremony to be held later this year.

Trouble over Siberia?

The 19-year-old was speaking from the tarmac at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in Belgium shortly after completing her five-month journey, which covered 51,000 km and more than 50 nations.

"I'm still in disbelief to be honest," Rutherford said.

The hairiest moments of her trip were a thunderstorm in Singapore and her lengthy crossing of Siberia, she said, with her feet back on firm ground. The teenager said that for miles and miles there was no sign of human life on the arctic region.

AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
Her flight covered 60 countries including Siberia where she listened to "Happier Than Ever" by EilishAP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

"In Siberia it was tough because, thankfully, nothing happened, but if it did happen and the engine were to stop for any reason, then suddenly I would be stuck in minus 35 degrees Celsius, at least three hours away from rescue," she said.

Avoiding North Korean airspace was also a challenge and the weather almost drove her into it.

"Normally nothing should or would happen (in North Korean airspace) but they have been testing missiles with no warning. And if they see a small blip or aircraft on their screen that's quite low, heading towards their country, it's very possible that they would send someone out to have a look," she said.

Aiming to encourage more women in flying

Rutherford said she hoped to be a role model for young women and girls to study science, mathematics and engineering.

"Growing up I didn't see many other girls flying, and I always thought that was discouraging. So in the future I'd like to get some more girls in aviation as well," she said.

Her mother Beatrice De Smet, also a pilot along with her father Sam Rutherford, said she thought the round the world trip would have taught her daughter to appreciate the smaller things.

"We all dream as youngsters to do amazing things and when, like Zara, you do amazing things you discover that beauty can be in the little things too," she said.

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