INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana teenager who was attempting to set a record for an around-the-world flight was killed when his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, and crews were searching Wednesday for his father, who was also on board.
Family spokeswoman Annie Hayat said the plane flown by 17-year-old Haris Suleman went down shortly after leaving Pago Pago in American Samoa on Tuesday night. Hayat said the body of Haris Suleman had been recovered, but crews were still looking for Babar Suleman.
The teenager’s sister, Hiba Suleman, said the trip had been a dream of her father’s for years and that her brother also was excited about it. Haris Suleman had recently obtained his pilot’s license and instrument rating, which authorized him to fly an aircraft over oceans, and planned to be the pilot in command except in an emergency.
Hiba Suleman told reporters Wednesday that her father and brother had undergone training in how to handle an ocean landing and wore protective suits while flying over water.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said the single-engine Hawker Beechcraft plane crashed into the ocean Tuesday night under unknown circumstances. The tail number provided by the FAA shows the plane is registered to a limited liability company whose address matches Babar Suleman’s home address in Plainfield, Indiana, west of Indianapolis.
U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said witnesses reported seeing the Honolulu-bound plane crash about a mile from shore shortly after taking off from Pago Pago International Airport.
The Sulemans left Indiana on June 19 in hopes of making the trip in 30 days to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command to do so. The father and son were using the trip to raise money for the Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit that builds schools in Pakistan. They missed the 30-day timetable, in part due to food-borne illness, but planned to return home Sunday.
The Sulemans had made stops throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, and the teenager told The Indianapolis Star earlier this month that he was enjoying each visit.
“There is so much beauty and culture in each country that I couldn’t possibly witness all that I want to in the span of two days,” he said in an email to the newspaper. “That’s the maximum time we’ve been able to spend at a stop.”