Father missing after crash during around-the-world flight has Al - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Father missing after crash during around-the-world flight has Ala. ties

L-R: Babar and Haris Suleman. Source: AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Robert Scheer L-R: Babar and Haris Suleman. Source: AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Robert Scheer
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

For the last year and a half, Babar Suleman had been flying in and out of the Shelby County Airport just about every week. In that time, flight instructor John Barnes got to know him.

"Very likeable guy. Seemed very knowledgeable," Barnes said.

An engineer by trade, Suleman did contract work for Southern Company, the parent company of Alabama Power. He'd fly his plane into the airport at the beginning of the week and then fly it home to Indiana on the weekends.

"Usually he'd come inside or we'd see him and talk to him for a few minutes," Barnes recalled.

That included conversations about the around-the-world flight Suleman was planning with his son, Haris, in a single engine Beechcraft Bonanza.

"The last several months that were getting closer we'd talk about it a little more. He'd talk about it. He was excited about it," Barnes recalled.

But most of all, Barnes said Suleman was excited to be taking the trip with his 17-year-old son. Haris had just recently earned his instrument rating which authorized him to fly over oceans.

"He was very proud of his son and his flying. It was something they enjoyed doing together and that was obvious," Barnes saod

There was a dual purpose for the Suleman's trip. Haris was hoping to set the record for the youngest person to pilot a single engine plane around the world. But it was mostly about raising money for The Citizens Foundation, an organization that builds schools in Suleman's native Pakistan.

On Wednesday the duo's plane crashed in the South Pacific Ocean. Haris' body has been found but searchers are still looking for Suleman as John Barnes and others hold out hope.

"We were all anxious to hear about the trip when he got back," Barnes says. "Obviously we're all rather sad to hear about it. Still are. Shocked."

Officials with Southern Company released a statement about the Suleman's crash.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of yesterday's plane crash and tragic loss of Haris Suleman." We remain hopeful during the ongoing search for Babar. Our deepest condolences go out to the Suleman family during this difficult time."

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