|This is my contribution to Round Eleven of ABC Wednesday and again I am focusing on people, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten.|
Vicki Van Meter is the youngest female pilot to have made a transatlantic flight when she was aged twelve, but despite a promising future before her, she was to die by her own hand when she was just 26.
Van Meter was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania in 1982 and became hooked on the idea of flying and space travel when NASA visited her junior school.
Soon after, her family visited a new terminal that opened at her local airport when her father spotted a sign-up sheet for a flight school and thought of his daughter’s ambitions and so Vicki’s voyage began.
Van Meter studied alongside adults and practised her skills by flying to see her cousins in another town, flying on short cross-country trips, flying in an air show, and flying to her sister’s graduation in a neighbouring state.
But Vicki was looking for a bigger challenge and in 1993, at the age of eleven, she became the first female pilot to complete a transcontinental flight from Augusta, Maine, to San Diego in California.
She completed her greatest feat the following year when she again took off from Augusta and flew to Glasgow in Scotland in a Cessna 210, continuing from there to visit London, Paris and Frankfurt.
Unsurprisingly, Van Meter became something of a celebrity, visiting the White House and appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She also spoke across the US, encouraging young people to follow their dreams.
Vicki graduated from Edinboro University with a degree in criminal justice and served with the Peace Corps in Moldova before working as an investigator for an insurance company.
Sadly, Van Meter suffered from depression and though her family believed she had learned to control her illness, she died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in 2008.
You can read more about Vicki Van Meter on the website set-up in her memory.