Skip to comments.Record-setting young pilot dies at 26
Posted on 03/18/2008 1:25:07 PM PDT by FortWorthPatriot
PITTSBURGH - Vicki Van Meter, celebrated for piloting a plane across the country at age 11 and from the U.S. to Europe at age 12, has died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Crawford County coroner said. She was 26.
Van Meter died Saturday and her body was found in her Meadville home on Sunday.
Her brother said she battled depression and opposed medication, but her family thought she had been dealing with her problems.
"She was unhappy, but it was hard for her to open up about that and we all thought that she was coping," Daniel Van Meter said. "This really is a shock, because we didn't see the signs."
Van Meter made national headlines in 1993 and 1994 when she made her cross-country and trans-Atlantic flights accompanied only by a flight instructor. Her instructors said she was at the controls during the entirety of both flights.
As a sixth-grader in September 1993, Van Meter flew from Augusta, Maine, to San Diego over five days. She had to fight strong headwinds and turbulence that bounced her single-engine Cessna 172 and made her sick.
At the time, she was believed to be the youngest girl to fly across the United States; the record was later broken.
Nine months later, Van Meter flew from Augusta to Glasgow, Scotland, and was credited with being the youngest girl to make a trans-Atlantic flight. She battled dizziness brought on by high altitude and declared upon landing: "I always thought it would be real hard and it was."
Later she earned a degree in criminal justice from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and spent two years with the Peace Corps in Cahul, Moldova. She recently worked as an investigative agent for an insurance company.
"She led a full and interesting life. ... She had more guts than any of us could ever imagine," said her mother, Corinne Van Meter, 57.
Corinne Van Meter said her daughter had recently begun applying to graduate schools and wanted to study psychology.
"We will miss her dearly, but we are very, very aware that she is doing important work somewhere else right now," she said.
Van Meter's funeral will be held in Meadville, but arrangements have not been finalized.
It was her record that Jessica Dubroff was trying for when she crsahed and died in 1996.
How sad. Prayers for her family.
Her brother said she battled depression and opposed medication,
While antidepressants do not work for everyone, it's a shame that she ended her life rather than try to help herself with the meds (but I am biased--see my screen name).
It was interesting and valuable, but it was certainly not "full."
She was twenty freaking six.
Full at 26? Hardly.
RIP...I remember the story.
I remember her. She was so young - she was clearly being manipulated by a stage father. Tragic loss of life.
If only she had embraced Scientology, her inner Thetan would have relieved her depression without medication or quack therapy. Oh, and a vegan diet and colon therapy would have worked wonders, too.
Shouldn’t the headline read “Record-setting young pilot kills self at 26”?
Children should not be allowed to grow up too fast.
your a glutton for punishment, aren't ya. :D.....is your real name, John Smith.... (South Park :)
What a shame that life no longer meant anything to her.
“It was her record that Jessica Dubroff was trying for when she crsahed and died in 1996.”
Such a tradgedy for the young woman’s family.
The responsibility for the death of little Jessica, though was placed properly on the shoulders of the flight instructor that decided to takeoff in the face of severe weather, thus cutting short the life of the little girl.
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Jessica Whitney Dubroff (May 5, 1988 April 11, 1996) was a 7-year-old pilot trainee who was attempting to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States when, 24 hours into her flight, her general aviation aircraft crashed after takeoff from Cheyenne Regional Airport in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
She was born in Contra Costa, California. During her flight, which included several stopovers, Dubroff became an instant media celebrity. Her flight was vigorously followed by supporters, media outlets, and others who monitored her flight every day for the duration of her trip, reporting each time she landed or took off, until the abrupt ending of her “Sea to Shining Sea Flight.”
Dubroff’s aircraft took off from Cheyenne in heavy rain and a sudden storm. The weather conditions contributed to the accident, which occurred within a few minutes after takeoff. Jessica Dubroff, her father Lloyd Dubroff, and her flight instructor Joe Reid (who was legally the pilot in command for all her flights and was apparently manipulating the controls during this particular flight segment) died in the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that pilot Joe Reid had made an “improper decision to take off into deteriorating weather conditions when the airplane was overweight and when the density altitude was higher than he was accustomed to, resulting in a stall caused by failure to maintain airspeed. Contributing to the pilot in command’s decision to take off was a desire to adhere to an overly ambitious itinerary, in part, because of media commitments.”
A book about Dubroff’s life has been published by her mother, Lisa Blair Hathaway.
The accident, and its associated publicity, led to Federal legislation that prohibits anyone who does not hold at least a private pilot certificate and a current medical certificate from being allowed to manipulate the controls of an aircraft during any record attempt, aeronautical competition, or aeronautical feat.
God be with her family.
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