April 9, 2008 by

Vicki Van Meter


Categories: Extraordinary People

Victoria Louise Van Meter, a record-setting young pilot, committed suicide on March 15. She was 26.

Born in Meadville, Pa., Van Meter discovered a passion for flying following a visit to the local airport in 1992. After taking several flying lessons, she made national headlines a year later for piloting a plane across the United States with only her flight instructor on board. The sixth grader, who encountered strong headwinds and turbulence on the five-day flight from Augusta, Maine to San Diego, Calif., set a record as the youngest girl to cross the nation.

She was just 11 years old.

In 1994, Van Meter took the controls of a single-engine Cessna 172 and flew from Augusta, Maine to Glasgow, Scotland. The trans-Altantic flight allowed the pre-teen to set yet another aviation record. Congress banned record-setting attempts by unlicensed pilots, however, after 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, her father Lloyd Dubroff, 57, and her flight instructor Joe Reid, 52, were killed in a Wyoming crash.

Van Meter’s high-flying achievements took her to Washington D.C., where she received a guided tour of the White House by Vice President Al Gore. In 2003, she was featured in “Women and Flight – Portraits of Contemporary Women Pilots,” a book by Carolyn Russo and a traveling exhibit highlighting 47 female pilots that’s now at the Smithsonian Institution. Van Meter also co-authored “Taking Flight,” a children’s book about her flying exploits.

Although she planned to become an astronaut when she grew up, Van Meter stopped flying after her trip to Europe. As an adult, she earned a criminal justice degree from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, and spent two years in the Peace Corps, serving in Moldova. Van Meter later worked as a surveillance investigator. In her spare time, she cared for her two dogs and cat and enjoyed sky diving.

According to the coroner, Van Meter died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. She suffered from depression and opposed taking medication.

10 Responses to Vicki Van Meter

  1. Amanda

    last week I traveled by plane for the first time. I was so exciting but now I am surprised and couldn’t believe that this young girl like me is dead. She doesn’t even made her dream – to fly beyond the sky – come true.
    congratulations for the blog, it is really interesting!

  2. Taylor

    She experienced more life; she influenced more people, a role-model for females. Both genders. She may have died very young; by her own wishes but she did live more life than most who die from old age.

  3. buzz

    I am also a pilot who suffers from depression. I could (and have) fly on anti depressant medication just fine, but the FAA prohibits its use. So pilots go to work every day and fly depressed. What would you rather have in the cockpit; a depressed pilot flying your plane, or a pilot who takes meds and is fine. It is just so senseless.

  4. Bridge

    I just read this. It is so sad that she shot herself, I thought it was so cool that she flew a plane when she was so young.
    R.I.P ✈→→✈→→✈→→✈ FLY LITTLE PLANE FLY!

  5. Rob

    I knew vicki and the vanmeters, never did I see this coming. We all were so proud of her and her accomplishments and her tenacity, we lost a great example of what children should strive to become; an asset to society. rest in peace dear vicki, much love from Meadville and everywhere!

  6. Doc

    Vicki was a student of mine at the university. She was also a friend. Believe me, in spite of her depression, she lived life to the fullest. She believed that her time here on earth was through – that she had accomplished what she needed to and that she was needed elsewhere. Her spirit still guides young people. Her work was finished here but has only begun on another “plane”…. Briana, I am glad you are reading about her. She was incredible. I gave her book to my own niece – autographed by Vicki of course!

  7. Adam Amriche

    Hi great blog, I am 15 and started flying the C152 when I was 14, threw all my training I’ve done so far Vicki has helped me throught some really hard times, she is my hero and role model, and I wish I knew her in real life, Rip Vicki, and happy birthday for tommorow!

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