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Little Jessica returns home

PESCADERO, Calif., April 14 -- Little Jessica Dubroff, whose dream of becoming the youngest pilot to fly across America ended in a fiery crash in Wyoming, returned to California not to tears of joy but to tears of sorrow. Her mother accompanied Jessica's body on a flight from Denver to San Francisco late Saturday. After sobbing upon her arrival at the airport, Lisa Blair Hathaway said she hoped people would remember her daughter 'with a big smile. She smiled from her soul. She shined through every part of her body.' A memorial was held in Cheyenne, Wyo., Sunday, and funderal services were planned for Monday in Jessica's hometown of Pescadero. Services are also planned for her father, Lloyd Dubroff, and flight instructor Joe Reid. Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board said autopsies indicate Reid was at the controls when their four-seat, single-engine Cessna 177 crashed Thursday in heavy rain and hail in Cheyenne, Wyo. The investigation focused on the weight of the aircraft, which got no more than 400 feet off the ground before it crashed, as a likely cause. 'It appears it's personal effects on the aircraft,' NTSB investigator Steve McCreary said. 'We haven't done an itemization yet of the fuel weight, the weight of the people aboard and the personal effects, but it appears it was personal effects.' Investigators said taking off at an altitude of 6,000 feet, the plane was capable of carrying no more than 2,500 pounds combined fuel and cargo.

McCreary said the scene of the crash indicated a great deal of luggage and other items aboard. In Washington, Federal Aviation Administration chief David Hinson said the agency will review regulations giving the pilot in command the responsibility to determine whether it is safe to put a child at the controls of an aircraft. The FAA said the minimum age for holding a pilot's license is 16 and when an unlicensed person, such as Jessica, flies with an instructor, the FAA considers the instructor to be the pilot in command. Dubroff, her father and Reid -- who owned the plane -- had taken off Wednesday from Half Moon Bay, Calif. The 7-year-old Pescadero, Calif., girl had hoped to make history as the youngest person to make the round-trip flight coast to coast. She had planned to stop in Washington on her way back to California and had invited President Clinton for a ride. The death of the child sent shock waves around the world. In Australia the news media called the flight a 'cheap publicity stunt,' and in Canada an aviator pointed out 7-year-old children are not allowed to drive cars and shouldn't be flying airplanes. But Jessica's mother defended the flight. At a news conference Saturday at San Francisco International Airport, she disputed the FAA's contention that the plane's weight contributed to the crash. 'That plane could've held four adults,' she said. 'I packed the food, I packed the water. How can that equal more than two adults?' Jessica, who was just 4 feet 2 inches tall, was actually too small to reach the controls of the aircraft. She sat on a cushion to see over the instrument panel and needed aluminum extensions on her feet to reach the rudder pedals. The girl experienced her first flight on her sixth birthday and had taken lessons for about five months, logging 40 hours of flying time before the trip began.

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