An Indiana teen poised to become the youngest commanding pilot to fly around the world died in a crash Wednesday off the coast of American Samoa.
The plane carrying 17-year-old Haris Suleman, and his father, Babar, crashed just after takeoff in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, reports Fox 59.
The pair were flying in their private plane in a round-the-world trip for charity.
Haris Suleman’s body has been recovered by rescue crews. The Sulemans were of Pakistani descent and lived in Plainfield, Indiana.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Plane Crashed Into the Water Off the American Samoan Coast
Their plane crashed into a lagoon about mile from the runway in Pago Pago. On July 22, Haris had been tweeting about the beauty of Pago Pago:
The beauty of Pago Pago! pic.twitter.com/1zTWFtj6fO
— BonanzaBoi (@worldrounder) July 22, 2014
Pago Pago is without a doubt top 5 places I've been this summer :)
— BonanzaBoi (@worldrounder) July 22, 2014
The plane sent a distress call before the crash. The Sulemans were flying in a Beechcraft Bonanza plane. Babar’s daughter, Hiba, posted a heartbreaking message on her Facebook page:
2. They Were Attempting to Get Around the World in 30 Days
The father and son set out to spend 30 days flying to cities across the world. According to the Indy Star, the two left their home in Indiana on June 19. The progress of the Sulemans could be followed on Haris’ @worldrounder Twitter feed and on the blog Around the World 4 Education. The trip would take them to 21 different cities.
The Indy Star reports that there were problems from the beginning. Weather issues delayed the start date, and on the day they were finally due to take off, that too had to be delayed because they forgot something at home.
Welcome to Bali pic.twitter.com/33ro1fqu3q
— BonanzaBoi (@worldrounder) July 15, 2014
At the time of the crash, the Sulemans were in the last leg of their journey. That journey was to include Kiribati, Hawaii and California.
3. Babar Suleman Is Still Considered Missing
The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for Babar Suleman, who’s still considered missing, the agency announced in a news release.
In 2008, he was interviewed on CNN when he was forced to land his single engine plane on an Indiana highway after he encountered problems.
In media reports before the pair too off on their journey, Haris had said that his father would take over control of the plane in emergencies.
Babar received his flying training in the Pakistani Air Force. He was the brother of former Pakistani Air Force Chief of Staff Rao Qamar Suleman.
4. Haris Hoped to Become an Engineer Like His Father
Haris Suleman was due to become a senior at Plainfield High School in Indiana. The school district released a statement upon hearing about Haris’ death:
Plainfield Community School Corporation is deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our students. Seventeen-year-old Haris Suleman completed his junior year in May and left Plainfield only days later in an attempt to fly around the world with his father. Haris’s adventurous spirit and huge heart led him to reaching for this personal goal while also seeking to raise funds and awareness for schools supported by The Citizens Foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan.
The loss of Haris is a sobering tragedy for our school community. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Haris’s family. We will provide information about memorial services and funeral arrangements once available.
Just prior to the trip, Haris Suleman received his pilot’s license and instrument rating, reports The Indy Star. These qualifications allowed him to fly over oceans. Haris told the Indy Star around the time “I feel like becoming a pilot has changed me a lot. It’s really hard to get to a point where you can fly around the world.”
On the Suleman’s blog, Haris writes that he hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps and go into engineering at either Purdue or the University of Texas. When asked what he would be doing after the jounrey was completed, Suleman said he was going to take the SATs.
5. The Journey Was for Charity
Had the journey been completed, Haris Suleman, as the plane’s commanding officer, according to their Go Fund Me page, would have been the youngest person to fly around the world in 30 days. The blog on the Go Fund Me page details that 60 percent of their trip would be spent over bodies of water including the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the final line, the blog notes:
All in all, despite the advances in electronics, it is still a dangerous undertaking.
The charity in question was Seeds of Learning, according to media reports, the two had raised $500,000 of their $1 million goal.
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