Haris and Babar Suleman knew the risks before they left for their trip.
Their 25,500-mile trip would take them over the ocean for hours at a time. They learned how to land on water in case of engine failure. Haris was a 17-year-old pilot who had been training with his father, Babar, since he was 8.
They kept a life raft packed with food and water in case they needed to bail into the ocean. When they flew over the water they wore stiff, padded, water-immersion suits, just in case.
Still, they knew they couldn’t plan for everything. And before they left, some asked them if it was worth it and why they would take a trip spanning 14 countries in just over a month.
Babar Suleman posted his answer on the pair’s blog on July 6:
“Granted, this is a risky venture ... so is driving to work every day, some drunk driver or swerving truck could take you out. Should you stop driving? No, you mitigate and try to become a more cautious and vigilant driver, but you may still get hit by someone who is not as cautious as you are. But that is not a reason for you to stop living.”
Haris and Babar Suleman left the Greenwood Municipal Airport on June 19 for what was supposed to be a 30-day trip around the world. They live in Plainfield but had trained and departed from the Greenwood airport, where they had come to know many pilots.
Haris Suleman died after the pair’s aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday evening, just days before they were set to return home. Rescue crews were still looking for Babar Suleman on Wednesday evening.
During their journey, they wrote a detailed blog highlighting cruising altitudes, long waits for workers to arrive with gas and headaches filing flight plans. They also wrote about the countries they stopped in, talking about their expectations and the surprises they got from different cultures throughout the trip.
One of their goals during the trip was to raise $1 million for The Citizens Foundation, which has built 1,000 schools for children in Pakistan. And as they flew over the coast into Pakistan, Babar Suleman looked upon his home country with a different perspective than from multiple trips on commercial airliners.
He wrote: “I had left Pakistan in 1984 and have visited it often, but this time it was different. We were arriving on our own and it meant a whole lot to me. I felt a surge of emotion as I pointed out the outline of the coastline to Haris. I don’t think Haris realized my true state of mind at that point and I did not want to encumber him with it either as he had to shoot an approach in to the Jinnah Airport at Karachi. I wanted to look at everything that was passing beneath us to remember it for years to come …. What a sight …. It felt like coming home!”
The pair also got a chance to tour a school like the ones they wanted to raise money to build in Pakistan. Babar Suleman looked in awe at the complex embroidery that the girls at the school were able to create. It was the kind of educational opportunity he wanted to help spread across the country.
“From the moment we set eyes on the purpose built school building till the time we left, I was in awe of what TCF had achieved,” Babar Suleman wrote. “This initiative involved teaching the high school girls how to design and complete very complicated, intricate and beautiful embroidery pieces. Having recently attended five weddings last December, I was keenly aware of what it takes to get those embroidered clothes ready, but I was very impressed with the results. This is a real life skill that is being taught to these girls and they can instantly turn this into a livelihood upon graduating even if they decided not to go on with their studies.”
The blog also detailed the pair’s problems along the way.
In Bali, Haris Suleman was attacked by a monkey as he tried to take a selfie with it, and they were delayed four days in Kuala Lumpur while Haris Suleman recovered from food poisoning.
And the pair posted about diagnosing and fixing problems with the plane as they occurred. That included taking care of an overheating fuel pump, investigating an engine problem to determine it was merely a glitchy sensor and requesting to fly at lower altitudes when they were running low on oxygen after leaving Italy.
“In aviation things can get interesting with weak radio transmissions to rerouted clearances to running out of oxygen to engine behaving erratically, things do get exciting for a while,” Babar Suleman wrote on June 29.