Daredevil act of teenage pilot

Haris Suleman (17) will be taking off with his father on an incredible journey to fly their single-engine plane around the world in just 30 days.
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Haris Suleman (17) will be taking off with his father on an incredible journey to fly their single-engine plane around the world in just 30 days.
Haris Suleman (17) will be taking off with his father on an incredible journey to fly their single-engine plane around the world in just 30 days.

While most schoolchildren are finishing off their exams and looking forward to the summer break, Haris Suleman will be taking off with his father on an incredible journey to fly their single-engine plane around the world in just 30 days.

If they succeed, 17-year-old Haris- who has been flying with his father, Babar, since he was eight – will be the youngest ever to accomplish this daredevil feat.

But it’s not just personal goals that the Sulemans, from Plainfield, Indiana, are striving for.

When they begin their journey next month they will also be raising money to help educate Pakistan’s poorest of the poor – the children living in some of the world’s worst slums.

The charity Babar and Haris are supporting – The Citizens Foundation – is celebrating the opening of its 1,000th school.

Since TCF’s inception in 1995, the non-profit organization headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan, has built purpose-made primary and secondary schools in the nation’s most in-need communities with the proviso that every attempt is made to have an equal number of boys to girls in the classrooms and the teaching staff is all female.

Depending on the weather, Babar and Haris plan to set off from Indianapolis in June. Their trip will include stops in Canada, Iceland, England, Greece, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Fiji, American Samoa, Kiribati, Hawaii and California.

Using the latest technology, anyone interested will be able to follow the exact flight path of the plane and watch their progress from videos mounted on the outside of the aircraft.

“I am really looking forward to getting going,” said Haris, a junior at Plainfield High School. “I only just got my license but I can’t imagine a better way to spend my summer.”

“He will be the pilot in command,” added Babar. “I will only take over the controls in an emergency situation. If all goes well, my son will be going back to school for his senior year with some tall tales to tell.

“He has been flying with me since he was 8-years-old. He couldn’t see above the windshield in those days but he would keep the three instruments in line.”

‘Haris is not going solo, so he is in a different category,’ said his father.  ‘But no 17 year old pilot in command has ever done this so far, so he gets to hold that record.

‘The second record is the attempt to do it in 30 days, depending on the weather.’

The intrepid pair has taken every precaution to be ready for any emergency, even going on a sea survival course to learn what to do in the event they have to ditch in the ocean.

About 60% of the trip will be over huge expanses of water, including the Atlantic, the Pacific and parts of the Indian Ocean. They will also be passing over the Swiss Alps, the Arabian Desert and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.

The longest stretch – from Hawaii to California – will take about 13 hours.

TCF’s founders hope that with the help of supporters like the Sulemans, they can forge partnerships with the government in the future to fix Pakistan’s broken public education system.

There are more than 240,000 public schools in Pakistan, many of them so badly run they don’t even have toilets or electricity let alone desks and computers.