Indiana teen pilot dies in crash while trying to set record

INDIANAPOLIS -- A family spokeswoman says an Indiana teenager was killed when his plane crashed while trying to set a record for an around-the-world flight.

Annie Hayat said Wednesday that the plane flown by 17-year-old Haris Suleman went down shortly after leaving Pago Pago in American Samoa. Suleman and his father, Babar Suleman, were on board.

sulemanap419087244323.jpg
In this Thursday, June 19, 2014 photo, Babar Suleman and son Haris Suleman, 17, stand next to their plane at an airport in Greenwood, Ind. before taking off for an around-the-world flight. On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, a single-engine plane with two aboard crashed in waters off American Samoa, with a registration number matching the plane flown by the Indiana teen attempting to fly around the world in 30 days. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Robert Scheer)
Robert Scheer, AP

Hayat says the body of Haris Suleman has been recovered. Crews were still looking for his father.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said the Hawker Beechcraft plane crashed into the ocean Tuesday night under unknown circumstances.

The two left Indiana June 19 in hopes of breaking a world record and raising money for a nonprofit that builds schools in Pakistan. They planned to return home Sunday.

The teenager's sister, Hiba Suleman, said the trip had been a dream of her father's for years and that her brother was also 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.

"We believed in it and we knew there was a risk but you can never expect something like this to happen," said Hiba Suleman.

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. Their family told CBS News they had raised $500,000 for the cause.

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."

Pakistan-based Capital TV tweeted a photo of the young pilot:

Comments