KARACHI: The single-engine plane of 17-year-old American-Pakistani pilot Haris Suleman, who was attempting a world record of travelling around the world in 30 days to raise money for the education of underprivileged children in Pakistan, crashed in the sea on his way from Hawaii to California on Wednesday.
Haris, who had only recently got his private pilot’s licence, was flying with experienced private pilot Babar Suleman with whom he had been flying since he was a little boy.
After starting their journey from Plainfield, Indiana, in the US, on June 19, the father and son visited Canada, Iceland, England, Greece, Egypt and the UAE before reaching Pakistan, where they received a warm welcome at Karachi airport on July 1.
From Pakistan they headed towards Bangladesh, Indonesia, Australia, Fiji, American Samoa, Kiribati and were on the last leg of their journey from Hawaii to California when their plane crashed.
Around the world in 30 days journey ends in tragedy
Since it is not recommended for single-engine planes to make ocean voyages, and since 60 per cent of the trip was over the oceans, including the Atlantic, Pacific and parts of the Indian Ocean, Haris and his father had taken a sea survival course to know what to do in the event of a mishap.
Speaking to the media at Karachi airport, Haris had said that he was a bit nervous about flying over the sea, especially during their longest 13-hour stretch from Hawaii to California. In order to be able to make the long voyage, Mr Suleman had to fix an extra fuel tank in the plane.
The young pilot had said that he was not doing this for records. “I am doing this to raise $1 million for The Citizen’s Foundation schools. I am associated with a TCF chapter in Indiana called Seeds of Learning,” he had said.
Babar Suleman, who hailed from a family of pilots and happened to be the younger brother of retired Chief of Air Staff Air Marshall Rao Qamar Suleman, said that he also had an older son and daughter who didn’t fly. “Haris is my youngest and he takes after me,” he had said proudly.
When Dawn contacted the residence of Haris’s paternal aunt Nasreen Abid Rao in Karachi for more details, his uncle retired Air Vice Marshal Abid Rao confirmed that Haris and his father had crashed over the sea between Hawaii and California.
“We were informed by the American Coast Guards at around 7.30pm PST about the tragedy. Haris had taken off from Hawaii about one-and-a-half hour before that. The coast guards have recovered Haris’s body, which they found floating on the sea’s surface, but they are yet to find the wreckage of the plane or his father Babar Suleman. They intend to resume their search as soon as there is light again,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2014