Reactions from veteran aviators
Published on: Sunday, January 23, 2022
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Zara and her ‘Borneo coach’, Lt. Col. Capt John Sham.
Capt Dorai Raja

On behalf of Layang Layng Group Managing Director, Tuan Hajii Johan Poong Abdullah, I would like to congratulate Zara on achieving her double Guinness Book of Recork and Layang Layang Aerospace is proud to sponsor the ground handling for her microlight aircraft, the Shark UL, CIQ clearance and be part of Zara’s journey during he stopover in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia between December 16-19, 2021. Zara is a brave, remarkable and resilient young pilot who weathered the challenges during the entire flight around the world. We wish her all the best in her future endeavours as Zara shared with us her aspiration to become a fighter pilot with the airforce.


Capt Raja 


Datuk Capt Mahmud Amat Shah– President of Sabah Flying Club

ZARA has won “the battle of the century” in Aviation History for being a female pilot to circumnavigate the globe solo in 155 days and received two Guinness World Records as the youngest pilot to solo flight around the world and the first solo flight in a microlight plane. Her achievement will definitely open up the aviation industry to the advancement of aircraft technology and materials used to fly in different environments for a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category. 

Lt. Col. John Sham – Layang Layang Aerospace Flying Academy 

“I am very happy and delighted to see that her dream has finally come to pass. Her achievements are well deserved due to her good, humble and positive attitude towards flying and the people she worked with. She certainly has the traits and attributes to be a good , professional , excellent and safe pilot.”

“I personally would like to congratulate her and the amazing FlyZolo Team. It was my pleasure and honour working with them. Nothing is impossible for those who believe!”   

“Praise God too, I was also featured in the New York Times after Zara had introduced to them as ‘my Borneo coach’, said Capt John Sham – Instructor at Layang Layang Flying Academy.

The New York Times report, entitled ‘She flew around the World in 155 days. She’s only 19’, reads as follows: ‘In Borneo, she was grounded for several days by bad weather and faced difficult choice of when to take off again (landed KK Dec 26, meant to take off Dec 17 but only managed to depart Dec 19). In the end, she crossed the topical island but made an unscheduled landing at domestic airfield (Ketapang) on its southern tip. That was a safer bet than crossing the Java Sea - a notoriously dangerous place for planes – amid poor conditions. ‘ 

‘A retired Malaysian fighter jet pilot who advised her on the Borneo leg, Lt Col. John Sham, later said by telephone that he had been impressed by Ms. Rutterford’s poise, humility and instincts under very challenging circumstances.’

‘This is one fascinating, brilliant girl,’ he said, as reported in the New York Times.    

Philip Tze – Vice President of Sabah Flying Club 

Philip Tze, who actively helped refuel Zara’s plane with 140 litres of Ron97 petrol together with Capt Mahmud and Capt Thomas, said: “First of all, we would like to congratulate Zara for her Guinness World Records. Well done. It was through her determination and focus that she achieved it and at the same time, Sabah Flying Club/Layang Layang Aerospace were very pleased to provide assistance/support to her while she made a stop here in Kota Kinabalu, the Land Below the Wind. 

“We wish her all the best in her future endeavour to be an astronaut and I am sure she will continue to inspire us all.

“We hope that she and her family will visit beautiful Kota Kinabalu and Sabah in particular to discover for themselves the amazing people and nature that we have to offer.” 

Capt Thomas Estolas – Sabah Flying Club Committee member  

“Her great achievement was not without trials and challenges of many sorts that many may not know about.

“Weather was clearly a major challenge flying solo around the world in a single engine microlight aircraft using visual flight rules (VFR). VFR requires the pilot to have visibility throughout the flight. Herein lies the challenge in decision making of flying during marginal weather or to stay on the ground while waiting for the weather to improve. The weather may change any time and the pilot flying VFR must be aware of this.  Other VFR challenges including looking out for other aircrafts flying around one’s aircraft and geographical terrains especially high grounds that are flight hazards during marginal weather. 

“Because you cannot afford any mid air engine failure, single engine piston aircrafts are more challenging compared to multi engine aircrafts, therefore quality maintenance is a must. Looking out for suitable forced landing sites throughout the flight coupled with regular forced landing practice would ensure survivability in the event of aircraft malfunctions such as engine failure.

“Zara’s good aviation training, personal experience and discussions with local pilots about local weather trends together with the latest weather information from all sources (SIA included) coupled with good aircraft maintenance and good ground handling services ensured she made correct aeronautical decisions for a safe flight around the world,” concluded Capt Thomas Estolas.           

Hosts Bernard Bauwens and wife Mary

“Well done, girl, we are proud to say that we’re her host during her stopover and stay in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Hope to meet her in the near future. “  

Paul Chin – (man who enlisted help from Sabah Flying Club & Layang Layang)

“I am just happy that I have contributed, however trivial it maybe for Zara to make it a success.” 


Sabah Flying Club President Capt Mahmud (right), Vice President Philip Tze (left) and Capt Thomas Estolas refuelling Zara’s plane with 140 litres of RON97 petrol sponsored by SFC. 


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December 20, 2014