Ground crew member warned teen pilot’s dad of wind
INDIANAPOLIS — A member of the ground crew at an airport in American Samoa warned the father of a teenage pilot from Indiana that winds had been gusty and strong all day and evening before their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, federal investigators say.
Haris Suleman, a 17-year-old from the central Indiana town of Plainfield, was killed July 22 when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the airport in Pago Pago as it headed for Honolulu, Hawaii. Suleman was trying to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command. His father, 58-year-old Babar Suleman, was the co-pilot.
A preliminary report issued Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board said Babar Suleman told the unidentified ground crewman during preflight checks the weather seemed fine. That’s when the crewman told him about the winds.
The crewman said as the plane took off the wind was “very strong” and the aircraft moved up and down and side to side. He said it banked to the right toward the ocean. The report said the airplane kept getting lower over the next few seconds, then disappeared.
The crewman said he did not see the plane go into the ocean and didn’t see an explosion. He said he only saw the lights getting lower and lower.
The crewman said he contacted the airport duty supervisor to determine if there had been any contact with the airplane. The supervisor responded that he was waiting for a call from the pilot, and the crewman said he thought it went into the ocean.
Another witness who was a couple of miles away sitting on a seawall said he saw the plane takeoff and reported it wasn’t gaining altitude. He stated that a few seconds after takeoff, the airplane suddenly went nose down into the water.
Haris Suleman’s body was recovered shortly after the crash. The father remains missing.
Their journey was a fundraiser to help build schools in Babar Suleman’s native Pakistan.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Stephens Media LLC is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.