Jessica Whitney Dubroff (May 5, 1988 – April 11, 1996) was a seven-year-old pilot trainee who died attempting to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States.
Twenty-four hours into her quest, her Cessna 177B Cardinal single engine propeller aircraft, flown by her flight instructor, crashed after takeoff from Cheyenne Regional Airport in Cheyenne, Wyoming, killing all on board: Dubroff, her father, and her flight instructor.
Although billed by the media as a “pilot”, Dubroff did not possess a medical certificate or a student pilot certificate, since they require a minimum age of 16, or a pilot certificate which requires a minimum age of 17, according to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. There was also no record-keeping body at the time of her trip recognizing any feats by under-age pilots. Nevertheless local, national, and international news media picked up and publicized her story, and closely followed her “record attempt” until its abrupt ending.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash and concluded it was caused by the flight instructor’s improper decision to take off in poor weather conditions, his overloading the aircraft, and his failure to maintain airspeed, which resulted in a stall. The NTSB also determined that “contributing to the [instructor’s] decision to take off was a desire to adhere to an overly ambitious itinerary, in part, because of media commitments.”