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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pilot's Mother Defends 7-Year-Old's Flight

CHEYENNE, Wyoming -- Jessica Dubroff's mother Friday defended her decision to allow her 7-year-old daughter to make the flight that ended in tragedy, saying Friday that "you've no idea what this meant to Jess.''

"She had a freedom which you can't get by holding her back,'' a crying Lisa Blair Hathaway told the nationally televised NBC program "Today'' while cradling her 3-year-old daughter, Jasmine.

Jessica, in an effort to become the youngest person to fly cross-country, was killed Thursday when her single-engine plane crashed in driving rain and snow shortly after takeoff, barely missing a house. Her father and flight instructor also died.

"I did everything so this child could have freedom and choice and have what America stands for,'' Hathaway said. "Liberty comes from ... just living your life ... I couldn't bear to have my children in any other position.''

Hathaway said that if children were forbidden to do anything unsafe, "They would be padded up and they wouldn't go anywhere. They wouldn't ride a bicycle; my God, they wouldn't do anything.

"You've no idea what this meant to Jess,'' she said.

Hathaway said she had spoken to her daughter on the telephone moments before the crash, and while she heard the rain in the background, there was no hint of trouble. Hathaway was in Massachusetts at the time, where she had gone to await her daughter's arrival.

"If there was something to be concerned about ... she and Joe would've talked about it,'' she said, referring to flight instructor Joe Reid. "There's no part of me that wants to question that.''

Less than a month away from her 8th birthday, Jessica used a red booster seat to see over the dashboard. At 1.27 meters tall, her feet couldn't reach the control pedals without some help, so she used extenders.

"I'm going to fly till I fly solo,'' she told The Associated Press last week. "Fly till I die.''

After the crash, a teary eyed Hathaway said she would "beg people'' to let their children fly.

"Clearly I would want all my children to die in a state of joy, but not at age 7,'' she said.

Later Thursday, Hathaway flew to Cheyenne to claim her daughter's body. Her plane landed just a short distance from the spot of her daughter's last takeoff. She was driven from the airport and did not speak with reporters.

Jessica's plane, a Cessna 177B owned by Reid, nose-dived to the ground minutes after taking off at 8:25 a.m., in a thunderstorm that produced heavy rain, snow and 51-kilometer-per-hour winds.

Also killed in the crash were her father, Lloyd Dubroff, 57, and Reid, 52.

The plane had a double set of controls to allow Reid to take over in an emergency, and Reid took control as the plane went over the Rockies, a challenge for even experienced pilots.

Officials would not speculate on the cause of the crash, but observers said weather could have been a factor.

A United Express commuter flight that was scheduled to depart moments after Jessica took off was delayed because of bad weather, The Denver Post reported Friday.

"I have no idea why they even attempted to fly,'' a United Express pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper.

The thunderstorm had blown in quickly, replacing a light rain.

"It changed from wind to sleet,'' said Cheyenne Police Chief John Powell, who called it the typical Rockies storm that "can get vicious in a hurry.''

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would review rules that govern when a pilot can allow an unlicensed passenger to fly.

Youngsters have to be at least 16 to solo at the controls of an airplane. But children of any age can fly alongside a licensed pilot who determines that it is safe to let them operate the controls.

The journey began Wednesday in Half Moon Bay, California, and the trip was to have taken them Friday to Falmouth and then back home.

Cheyenne was Jessica's first overnight stop.

Shortly before takeoff, Jessica told a reporter for Cheyenne television station KKTU that she concentrated on keeping the plane in the air, quickly adding that she didn't worry about crashing.

The plane climbed no farther than 120 meters above the airport. Then the Cessna plummeted nose-first into a home's driveway, barely missing the garage.

The bodies were still strapped into their seats when police reached the scene. McCreary said it wasn't clear who was operating the plane, or whether the fliers had been in contact with air traffic controllers.

Another child pilot, Killian Moss, who flew from San Diego to Norfolk, Virginia, last year at age 8, cried when he learned at school of the crash.

"I'm going to call her mom and say I'm sorry,'' the third-grader said in Phoenix. "It's a sad day for all aviators, because another aviator has gone down.''

Several years ago, the Guinness Book of Records ceased recognizing the "youngest pilot'' category for fear of encouraging unsafe flights.