12-Year-Old Reaches Scotland After Trans-Atlantic Flight
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) _ Flying a plane she calls ″Harmony″ and accompanied by her flight instructor, a sixth-grader from Meadville, Pa., believes she is the youngest girl to pilot a plane to Europe.
Twelve-year-old Vicki Van Meter completed her trans-Atlantic flight Tuesday after taking her single-engine plane ’above the clouds to rid it of ice on the wings.
″I always thought it would be real hard and it was,″ she told reporters at Glasgow International Airport. ″A lot of people really helped me along the way. They taught me to fly, I didn’t do it myself.″
The flight began Sunday in Augusta, Maine, and included stops in Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland.
Vicki said she had some difficulties on the last 800-mile leg from Reykjavik, Iceland, when ice formed on the wings and her flight instructor, Curt Arnspiger, advised her to go above the clouds to 13,500 feet. She flew most of the way between 3,000 and 7,000 feet.
″I started to feel very tired, dizzy, but we had to stay up that high to get rid of the ice. I had to make do with too little oxygen and I was glad Scotland wasn’t so far away,″ she said.
Arnspiger said Vicki was at the controls throughout the flight.
″I was her adviser and there for any unforeseen difficulties. But she did everything from start to finish - taking off, navigating, communicating with the ground, and landing,″ he said.
The flight path planned by the young pilot was similar to Amelia Earhart’s 1932 solo flight across the Atlantic.
Vicki’s father, Jim Van Meter, had said he planned to allow her a sip of champagne in Glasgow. But she arrived well before her parents, who took a commercial flight from Reykjavik.
About 30 people were on hand to greet her, including members of the Glasgow Flying Club.
NATO officials have been tracking Vicki’s plane since it left Reykjavik about noon Tuesday. After Scotland, further stops are planned in England, France, Belgium and Germany.
The young aviator received a warm send-off Sunday from Augusta, where she also began a trip last year to San Diego that made her the youngest girl to pilot a plane across the continent.
Vicki is thought to be the youngest person to attempt a trans-Atlantic flight, but there are few records on pilots under 16, who must fly with an instructor, said Dorothy Cochrane, curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.
The Guinness Book of World Records and the National Aeronautics Association haven’t recognized ″youngest pilot″ claims since the 1980s because a pilot must be 16 to get a license.