Flight instructor says father, son well prepared for around-the-world trip

Babar and Haris Suleman
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The man who taught 17-year-old Haris Suleman how to fly describes him as an outstanding student with a passion for flying.

Tom Jeffries, a retired commercial pilot, operates Jeff Air Pilot Services LLC out of the Greenwood Airport. It's where Haris and his father Babar Suleman, began their round the world trip June 19. 

Haris was hoping to become the youngest person to fly around the world in a single engine plane in 30 days. Their trip ended tragically when their Beechcraft Bonanza crashed shortly after take-off from Pago Pago Wednesday. The two were heading to Hawaii and nearing the last leg of their trip.

"They were just great people, they worked together well.  It's just devastating to hear about this kind of accident," Jeffries said.

According to Jeffries, Haris spent a year and a half attending ground school before beginning his in-flight training in February. He says Haris racked up more than 100 hours of in-flight time before getting his pilot's and instrument licenses simultaneously.

"[Haris] was intelligent and hardworking," he said. And while Haris was hoping to set a record, Jeffries says the fatehr and son worked as a team, collaborating every step of the way.

"Even though Haris was in the left seat, Babar was very much part of the whole crew concept we talked about many times in preparing for the trip," Jeffries said.

He noted their plane was "dual control," allowing one pilot to easily transfer control to the other.  Jeffries says the trip involved a lot of planning, such as preparing the flight plan and getting permits from the places where they intended to land.

"They had to send fuel ahead of time and arrange for maintenance and oil in route," he said. Babar even took a special training course out east on "how to evacuate from a plane if it were ditched in the water.  They  put him in a frame and dumped it in a pool and showed him how to get out, and what it was like if the plane was upside down and in various configurations."

Jeffries says another session involved taking Babar "out into the ocean by helicopter with him and the instructor required to get in a raft and survive the whole ordeal." He says Babar, an experienced pilot, was "meticulous" about making sure everything worked properly. He says both father and son were well-prepared. 

"We were just hoping to celebrate when they got home and we're sorry to hear we're not going to have that celebration," Jeffries said.