When Vicki Van Meter was little she thought she was a pig. "Not eatingwise!" she says. "I actually believed I was a four-legged animal. Everyone still calls me Hammy."
Unless they're calling her Amelia Earhart. Vicki, a tall hairpin of a 12-year-old, made headlines last September as the youngest girl ever to pilot a plane cross-country. On June 4-the day after she finishes sixth grade—she will take another pass at making aviation history, by attempting to do the same across the Atlantic.
She will begin her 3,668-mile journey in Meadville, Pa., a town north of Pittsburgh best known as the birthplace of the Talon zipper, and hopes to touch down in Glasgow three days later. Vicki, the youngest of the three children of Jim and Corinne Van Meter, has lived her whole life in Meadville. "I'll never forget Track and Field Day in 1991," says Jim. "Vicki won the girls' 400 meters, threw up, walked to the other side of the track and then won the 200 meters and the football toss."
"Dad!" protests Vicki. "Why did you bring that up?"
"To show how tenacious you are."
"That's so embarrassing!"
Vicki came by her interest in planes naturally. Her grandmother worked as a weather-observer and met Vicki's grandfather, an air-traffic controller, at what is now the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. Her stockbroker dad once owned a Piper Tri-Pacer. He sold it to put Corinne through college. "I've always dreamed of becoming an astronaut," says Vicki, flashing a mouthful of braces. "I think it would be neat to be the first person to walk on Mars."
She has been prepping over Earth since the fall of 1992, when Jim spied a sign-up sheet for flying lessons at the Port Meadville Airport. "If you want to fly to Mars someday," he told her, "maybe you'd better put your name down."
"Yeah," said Vicki. "O.K."
Within a year she had logged 50 hours in the air and another 60 hours in ground school. "The hardest part was sitting in a room full of smoking pilots," she says.