Report: Winds gusty before Ind. teen pilot fatal crash

Photo shows 17-year-old Haris Suleman as he sits on the wing of his single-engine airplane in Lahore, Pakistan. He and his father were on a 3-day flight around-the-world. (AP Photo/The Citizens Foundation)
Photo shows 17-year-old Haris Suleman as he sits on the wing of his single-engine airplane in Lahore, Pakistan. He and his father were on a 3-day flight around-the-world. (AP Photo/The Citizens Foundation)

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — The preliminary report into the plane crash that killed a Plainfield teen who was piloting the aircraft with his father has been released.

The report from the National Transportation Safety Board says prior to the July 22 departure, Babar Suleman, 58, spoke with a crewman at the airport and said he and his 17-year old son, Haris, planned to fly because the weather was great. The crewman noted the wind had been gusty and strong all day and evening, the report said.

The father-son pair were preparing to depart from Tafuna/Pago Pago International Airport (PPG) in Pago Pago, American Samoa, in hopes of setting the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command.

The crewman says as he watched the plane move down the runway he noticed the wind was very strong. The report says as the plane became airborne, “it was moving up and down and side to side; it also was not gaining altitude.”

The report says the crewman noted seeing the plane bank toward the ocean before it reached the end of the runway. The crewman said the plane kept getting lower and then disappeared. He didn’t see the plane contact the water, didn’t see an explosion and didn’t hear a noise. He only saw the light get lower, the report states.

The crewman contacted the airport supervisor to see if any contact had been made with the pilot after takeoff, but there hadn’t been.

Investigators spoke with a witness who was sitting across from the airport. He said the engine of the plane was loud as it was taking off and that shortly after takeoff, the plane suddenly went nose down into the water.

The American Samoa Marine Patrol recovered Haris’ body the night of the crash. Coast Guard crews searched more than 4,000 square nautical miles for a total of 70 hours for Babar before suspending their search.

Haris was entering his senior year at Plainfield High School.

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