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Old 1 Week Ago
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Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

Hopefully these dangerous "youngest to ever..." attempts will come to an end someday. This kid just got his pilot's license in June, and died trying to fly to American Samoa at night. I'm not a pilot, but I know it takes an awful lot of experience to fly over the ocean at night, where there is absolutely no lighted horizon or other frame of reference, and you're 100% dependent on instruments.

Teen pilot killed at sea in quest to set world record - CNN.com

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(CNN) -- An American teenager who was trying to set a world record for flying around the world was killed and his father is missing after their plane crashed into the ocean off American Samoa on Tuesday night, the boy's family said.

Haris Suleman, 17, was trying to make the trip in 30 days and was due home in Indiana on Saturday, his sister Hiba Suleman said. The teen's body was recovered.

Still missing was his father, Babar Suleman, who was traveling with Haris and who is also a pilot.

"We're hoping my dad is alive and well, and we're going to keep praying until we have a definitive answer," Hiba Suleman said.

She told reporters the plane was about 23 miles from the island when it crashed. Her father wouldn't have let Haris take off if the weather was bad, she said.

It is unclear why the plane crashed or why the duo took off at night.

"He was doing something that he loved. He was doing something adventurous," she said of her brother, who received his pilot's license in June. And he was doing it to raise money for charity, she added.

The principal of the high school where Haris was a rising senior said the school was deeply saddened by his death.

"Haris' 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 nonprofit organization headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan," said Melvin Siefert, principal of Plainfield High School.

A soccer coach at the school told the Indianapolis Star that Haris was a great student and a talented player.

"Haris loved to joke a lot," David Knueve told the newspaper. "He just got the team sort of laughing at the right moments."

His sister said Haris planned to be an engineer like his father.

The oldest sibling, a brother, was trying to get from London to American Samoa to pick up Haris' body but there were only a few flights, Hiba Suleman said.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman, Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie, said a plane would aid in the search for Babar Suleman.

He and Haris were wearing "gumby" suits that could help them survive a water landing, Hiba Suleman said. She said they had taken a course in how to survive a crash in the ocean.

They also had life rafts aboard.

The next legs of the trip were supposed to cross the Pacific Ocean, with stops in Kiritimati (also known as Christmas Island) and Hawaii.

The plane has yet to be recovered, but emergency beacons were sending out signals.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane was a Beechcraft Bonanza A36.

CNN's Mayra Cuevas and Stella Chan contributed to this report.
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

It says they were wearing gumby suits. Must had a mechanical/fuel problem that gave them enough time to prepare for a crash into the water. If they were only 23 miles away from the island they should have been able to have radio contact.
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

It sounds like they planned and were prepared. Father was a pilot, though the article doesn't give his experience level. Its tragic, but it doesn't sound totally irresponsible. Something obvoiusly went wrong.
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

Visual Flight Rules (VFR) with a night endorsement, has just a few hours of training on instruments, to basically turn around and get out of what you get into.
If you loose orientation, in a no light and no horizon situation and subsequently control, then you are DOING aerobatics on instruments alone.

I think a young Kennedy lost his life, in a similar situation out of New York.
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

Quote:
Originally Posted by sony2000 View Post
Visual Flight Rules (VFR) with a night endorsement, has just a few hours of training on instruments, to basically turn around and get out of what you get into.
If you loose orientation, in a no light and no horizon situation and subsequently control, then you are DOING aerobatics on instruments alone.

I think a young Kennedy lost his life, in a similar situation out of New York.
I can't speak for Canadian pilot certification and currency requirements, but in the U.S. there is no specific "night endorsement." A PPL (Private Pilot's License) allows you to fly at night, and you are trained to so as part of your flight training towards your PPL check ride, although check rides are not typically held at night. If you can not demonstrate sufficient color recognition at your routine aviation medical exams, then you may have the privilege of night flight REMOVED, but night flight does not require an extra endorsement. In order to carry a passenger at night, you must have three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop within the previous 90 days in the category and class of aircraft to be flown.

Night flight can be beautiful on a clear night, on a night with a full moon, and/or with clear skies, and not particularly difficult. Bad visibility issues are MUCH more dangerous to relatively inexperienced VFR pilots at night than during the day, of course. I've flown over Lake Ontario during hazy conditions where the horizon was not discernible, and yes, it is a little unnerving at first, but any well trained pilot knows to trust and rely on his/her instruments, and also how to recognize, identify, and deal with failures in one of the three typical instrument systems (gyro, electrical, and
static/ram air). An increasing number of aircraft have glass systems in the cockpit, but still have backups in the case of failure.

Kennedy crashed flying to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket... I can't remember which. He was flying a fairly new-to-him (a few months and 36 total hours) very powerful complex airplane (complex has an aviation definition.. I"m not using the term loosely). He had passed his written test towards his IFR certification, but had done little actual flight training towards it. His flight instructor has been quoted as saying that he was capable of keeping the airplane level in IFR conditions, but may have trouble accomplishing other tasks. That, at least in my opinion, is less than even a well trained VFR pilot is required to be able to demonstrate during a VFR checkride, much less in IFR conditions. In any case, his time over the ocean flying to Martha's Vineyard, depending upon his route, would be fairly insignificant compared to what the poor young lad in this thread was attempting to do.

Perhaps you've read other articles about this attempt, but I saw no mention of the boy's experience or ratings, nor of the father's. The father could have been (and should have been, IMHO) IFR rated in order to undertake such an adventure with his son. The son could have been IFR certified, too. We just don't know. In any case, losing your orientation is not the same as losing control, although it can lead to it quickly if you don't trust your instruments. First rule... FLY THE AIRPLANE.

As a few other posters have said, it sounds as if they were well prepared. Things go wrong. Thankfully, things go wrong a very small percentage of the time.

Pardon the long reply. As sailors, many of you are aware of a portion of the public's misinformed attitudes towards the apparent risks of sailing, especially by young people. The flying community endures the same thing from a significant portion of the general public, times ten, so I'm kind of sensitive to it. As a sailor, I would NOT undertake anything close to a blue-water passage at my level of experience... which is pretty much "none" still. That would be stupid and dangerous. As a pilot, I have a lot more experience, so I'm equipped to do some things that would be stupid and dangerous for people who don't know how to fly airplanes. In between those two scenarios is an infinite expanse of experience levels, and each individual is responsible for assessing their training and experience levels as they apply to each and every mission they contemplate flying or sailing. As armchair quarterbacks of this current tragedy, let's not condemn a father and son for pursuing a dream that they very well may have been incredibly prepared for. Even if they were NOT prepared, then condemning them still does precious little good. Praying folks can pray for them and their family (and I will), but other than that there's not much good we CAN do.

Best wishes to all,

Barry
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

Barry,

Thanks for the well thought out post. I agree that there is nothing that we can do to help the aviator who is the subject of this thread, other than pray for him and his family.

That said, I am squarely in the camp that would like to see the "youngest person to circumnavigate" publicity stunts banned. What is the point, aside from publicity? (IMHO this should lead to notoriety, not fame) I am glad that the Guiness organization will no longer recognize people in this category, and believe that other organizations should not encourage this foolishness.
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

Quote:
Originally Posted by bblument View Post
(complex has an aviation definition..
I learned something today. Thanks for your thoughts on this subject BTW.

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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

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As a few other posters have said, it sounds as if they were well prepared. Things go wrong. Thankfully, things go wrong a very small percentage of the time.
Things go wronger the younger the sailors or pilots are.

Thats the point.

Untill the records get banned. Then people stop dying. Then someone finds another record attemp and the cycle starts again concluding in more deaths...


Sickening.
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

The organization that keeps track of sailing records eliminated the 'youngest' category a few years ago so if people are doing it there is no formal recognition. Having said that, we crossed paths with Laura Dekker in the South Pacific and she was a very competent, responsible sailor.
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Re: Another fatal attempt at "Youngest to circumnavigate"

From what I heard, dad was with him and was a very accomplished IFR rated pilot.

Personally, I'm not willing to fly a single engine plane beyond engine fail gliding distance of the shore. I climb to a decent altitude just to get to Nantucket, particularly in the winter when the water is cold. A lot of my pilot friends, who are not sailors or particularly good swimmers, are less afraid of this than me.

We don't know what went wrong yet. The details will come out, and pilots will study them to try not to repeat whatever happened. My condolences to the family.
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