In conversation with a double world record breaker

Zara Rutherford stands next to her Shark plane at an airport in the BVI
Zara Rutherford
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 19 January 2022

This week, I was so excited to catch-up with the incredible Zara Rutherford, a matter of days before so completes her epic solo round the world flight! Truly one of the most inspiring and remarkable young people I have ever talked to, when Zara lands in Belgium (hopefully tomorrow), she will have broken not one but two Guinness World Records! 

  • The youngest person to circumnavigate solo by microlight is 19 years 196 days, achieved by Zara Rutherford (Belgium, b. 5 July 2002). 

  • The youngest person to circumnavigate by aircraft solo (female) is 19 years 196 days, achieved by Zara Rutherford (Belgium, b. 5 July 2002). 

It’s bizarre when I think since the last time I talked to Zara, five months ago when she started her epic adventure, she has gone on to fly a total of 28,121 Nautical Miles / 52,080 Kilometres, covered 41 countries, bringing her back down to solid ground as a double World Record Breaker!   

Hearing first-hand about her experiences, both good and daunting, was extremely humbling. I hope you all enjoy our chat and find it as inspirational as I did. 

At Virgin, we have always loved going after World Records, both setting and breaking them, I even broke one myself!  So, when I first heard of Zara’s dream to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world – I just knew we had to support her dreams.

Richard Branson with children Holly and Sam with their medals and Guinness World Record certificate after running the London Marathon dressed as caterpillars and a butterfly
Image by

As a #virginfamily we have loved following Zara’s journey and her incredible drive to promote STEM education and careers to young women and girls the world over.  At Virgin, our highlights were Zara stopping off to visit the teams at Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America, Virgin Orbit in Mojave, and Virgin Hyperloop in L.A. Her passion for aviation and all things STEM - inspired every team member she met - not least dad! Spending the day with Zara and hearing about all her adventures was a highlight of dad’s year and I know he will be absolutely delighted for Zara that she will very shortly become a double World Record Breaker. Something dad knows quite a lot about! 

Virgin Galactic pilot Michael Masucci shows Zara Rutherford around Spaceport America
Virgin Galactic

Zara, enjoy every moment of the next few days, you are truly remarkable, and I still can’t quite believe you’re  nineteen!  All the #virginfamily are cheering you on in your final days. We are honoured to have been part of your epic challenge and we’ll continue to promote your passion for STEM with young girls and women, globally.   

I do hope we get to meet face to face eventually. In the meantime, enjoy that sandwich - I hope it is everything you dreamed it would be!