Birthday in the Clouds: 17 Year Old Flies Solo Around the World

By Liam Rockwell

On August 24th, Mack Rutherford landed his 186 mph Shark in an airport in Sofia, Bulgaria. Six months and thirty-thousand miles earlier, he took off from the same airport to begin his record-breaking flight around the world. He was 16 years old. When he landed, he was 17 years old, becoming the youngest person ever to fly around the world.

Flying runs in his family. His mother Beatrice is a private pilot, and his father Sam is a ferry pilot, in fact his sister Zara set the world record for the youngest woman to fly around the world at 19. And when Zara flew around the world at 19, Mack wondered if he could at 16.

Mack may have spent his 17th birthday in the company of the clouds, but he was far from out of touch with his family. His sister was always trying to lend a helping hand when it came to advice and questions Mack had. His parents called him every day to check in.

Now, what’s the significance of his record? Well, according to his father, Sam Rutherford: “[Mack and Zara] have shown to other youngsters that you don’t have to be 18 even, and certainly not 30, to make a difference and do something and follow your dreams.”

In school, we are taught that we have autonomy over our own lives. From the very beginning, they have told us that our youth doesn’t affect our potential, and that it’s the young people who change the world most often. But what Mack has done is that he has proven this true. Now, the teachers can point to him as an example.

When listening to his stories from the flight, it’s inspiring to realize that it’s a young person behind the wheel of the plane. When hearing about his fuel problem over the Sahara, or the night he spent in a shack on an abandoned island, it’s hard not to picture yourself in his shoes, especially if you’re a young person. The world has taught us that our youths should be spent preparing for our adulthood so we can change the world then, but learning about Mack Rutherford’s story teaches that  you can change the world right now. All it takes is determination.

Ever since Mack came home, he has been swarmed by the press, almost every major newspaper has made an article about him, such as NPR and the New York Times. That may be cool now, but in thirty year’s time, the articles’ importance won’t hold a candle to the fact that he taught the world just what young people can do, and in doing so, he changed it forever.

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