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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

(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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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I'm a former commercial helicopter pilot with 3000 + hours. It is VERY easy to lose focus with no visual reference even with instruments especially if you only have a VFR rating. Case in point, I was over the Everglades one night and was busy fumbling with my radio and sectional. I could hear the blades slapping a little harder telling me I was no longer straight and level. It was no big deal per say but in a matter of around 8 seconds I had lost around 150 feet of altitude. Had I been any lower than 500 AGL before I started not paying attention that could have been an issue..
 

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AFAIK no one has any idea why they crashed. 17 years old is old enough to be a licensed pilot - this was not one of those goofy 7 year old kid with a flight instructor "records". That said, over ocean at night can be so dark it looks like someone spraypainted your windshield with flat black paint.
 

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I read an interesting article, i think after the Kennedy crash, about the time it takes from 'white out' to losing the ability to determine up from down and be badly disorientated. For non IFR pilots it was less than 30 seconds.

Question for the experienced pilots:

If a lesser experienced pilot got the plane out of control due to loss of orientation it must be doubly harder for the other pilot to take over, orientate himself, then orientate the aircraft. Wouldn't it?
 

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An article I read said they had engine trouble shortly after taking off from their Indiana base. A recurrence of that could be the culprit. They appeared to have completed about three quarters of the trip and probably had many hours night flying over water plus dad was an experienced pilot, so I'm thinking it more likely something with the aircraft. an engine out ditching at night in a rolling ocean is problematic. As an SEL private pilot without IFR rating I can attest that flying into IFR conditions ain't a good thing. Going across the lower Chesapeake a couple of years ago the haze was so bad I lost the horizon, the water looked like sky. Made a U turn with eyes glued on the instruments until I had the real horizon. A few stints under the hood during training and biannuals does not prepare one to fly in IFR conditions, only to hopefully get out into clear air.
 

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When you are first learning IFR flying, it's disconcerting. You can not rely on normal body clews to tell you which way is up, you've got to learn to absolutely trust your instruments. The attitude indicator easiest to understand, it's like looking out a miniature window at the horizon, although you can infer your attitude from all the other instruments without an attitude indicator if it fails.

Also, it's true, flying at night over the water is very much like flying in instrument conditions. Hard to tell where the water stops and the sky starts. Many, including myself would not recommend an over water flight to a VFR only pilot, even though it's technically legal.

It is harder to recover from a unusual attitude than it is to keep straight and fly right, but recovery from unusual attitudes is part of the training and the check ride. An examiner will put the plane in a dive/bank or something you wouldn't normally do, and you need to recover by instruments only.

From what I've read about dad in this case, I don't think this fits into the usual sail net conversation about the totally unprepared embarking on a blue water passage with the wrong boat. That said, single engine, beyond gliding distance to land offshore isn't for me.

Over time, the data will come out, and we'll all try and learn from it.

Too bad, a sad outcome.
 

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Regarding instrument flying...

Flying instruments really isn't that hard, but it takes a lot of proficiency and training to get used to the environment. In general aviation, there are a LOT of incidents where pilots fly VFR (visual reference) into IMC (instrument conditions, clouds mainly) and get into trouble, often inverted or spiraling into the ground.

The accidents of that nature aren't exclusive to non-instrument pilots, either. It's easy to lose proficiency with flying instruments or make a bad decision (descent below minimums, for example) that can cost you. While I never found flying instruments to be that complicated or difficult, I could easily feel loss of proficiency, even not flying for a week or two.

An aspect of instrument training that a lot of people miss is that it's a more precise way to fly and, IMO, opens the door to flying more complex airplanes to a higher degree of safety. You learn to get ahead of the airplane, which is important with an airplane like they were flying. A student pilot or private pilot is going to need more hours to safely fly a complex airplane than an instrument pilot (As with everything, YMMV).

Which raises another point, the A36 they were flying is a great airplane. I have time in them and they are, by far, one of the best piston single aircraft on the market (IMO). They have great flight characteristics, but they are a complex airplane and can be very slippery. If you are flying instruments, you really have to stay ahead of the airplane and keep her level, otherwise the airspeed will creep up on you quickly, enough to create a problem.

Regarding the accident, I'm not sure any of the above really would apply, though. According to what I've read, the father was very experienced, as was the kid, so I doubt that experience is going to be a real factor here. I'd wager mechanical failure is more likely, especially since fuel quality in most areas of the world can be shady, at best, and such contamination can result in a power problem.

That's pure speculation, though. Personally, I wouldn't do that in a pistol single. I think we've moved beyond the era of exploration in aviation and taking such risks is not as noteworthy as it once was.

If a lesser experienced pilot got the plane out of control due to loss of orientation it must be doubly harder for the other pilot to take over, orientate himself, then orientate the aircraft. Wouldn't it?
Not for an experienced instructor that has plenty of time in the right seat.

I've always wanted to learn to fly, but y'all are rapidly talking me out of it.

MedSailor
It's not hard, you just need to stay proficient and take your time with training. And get instrument rated.

Most sailors on the internet love to be dramatic about the difficulty of things, pilots are even worse, so don't let it get to you.
 

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Depends. As an instrument instructor that was my daily grind. Absent that kind of experience, it could be.

I read an interesting article, i think after the Kennedy crash, about the time it takes from 'white out' to losing the ability to determine up from down and be badly disorientated. For non IFR pilots it was less than 30 seconds.

Question for the experienced pilots:

If a lesser experienced pilot got the plane out of control due to loss of orientation it must be doubly harder for the other pilot to take over, orientate himself, then orientate the aircraft. Wouldn't it?
 

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Well if you aproach it like at least half the powerboat drivers I see you'll die quickly :rolleyes:
If you really want to learn, it is fun and rewarding. Crossing oceans is a level of risk a bit above the typical flight out to get a burger ;)
Longest over water I did was to the British West Indies and between the Hawaiian Islands. This is going north from Eleuthera to Marsh Harbor to buy gas.


I've always wanted to learn to fly, but y'all are rapidly talking me out of it.

MedSailor
 

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Often long over water attempts use huge fuel tanks that put the gross weight past safe limits, wing loading goes so high that the aircraft will fly only in ground, or in this case, water effect, until some of the fuel burns off and they are then able to climb. This sometimes works, don't know if this was the case here.
 
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