PILOT DIED ‘DOING WHAT HE LOVED’
Ex-Windsorite among dead in Pickering crash
Azizullah Yoosufani soared from Windsor’s west end to grasp his childhood dream: flight.
Yoosufani, a 26-year-old Seneca College flight instructor and former Windsorite, was killed in a plane crash Thursday night in Pickering. He and students Cynthia HoiMei Tsang and Lloyd Myles Cripps, both 20, were pronounced dead at the scene after their single-engine plane crashed in a farmer’s field.
The three were on their way back from a training exercise when the plane vanished from radar at Pearson International Airport at 7 p.m. The wreckage was discovered by a police helicopter.
“He absolutely loved the idea of flying,” said Yoosufani’s close friend, 24-year-old Melanie Theuma. Even as a student, she said, he dreamed of getting above it all and looking down at the world.
“It was his absolute favourite thing to do and to be. It was almost like he was a kid in a candy store when he talked about flying.”
Theuma said Yoosufani wasn’t originally from Windsor, having lived in Chicago for some time.
In Windsor he was a straight-A student, a graduate of J.L. Forster school, living on Peter Street in the west end. “They weren’t exactly well off,” she said.
Flight, Theuma said, was Yoosufani’s dream, one he’d harboured ever since she met him when he was 19. She said he looked up to his father, a former engineer for Pakistan Airlines.
“He really wanted to follow his father’s lead,” she said, though his true ambition was to be a commercial pilot.
“He decided after he finished high school he was just going to go do it.”
Leaving his friends behind, Yoosufani headed to Toronto to enrol at Seneca College. The school lists its flight program degree as “the only aviation technology-based degree program in Canada.”
Theuma said it was tough for Yoosufani to leave behind his family and friends. “It was a big sacrifice for him but even so, it worked out in his favour.”
She said he worked at Future Shop in Windsor to pay for his own schooling. He continued in Toronto.
“They were very tough, very intense studies,” she said of his time at Seneca. “His life was just studying and practising.”
Yoosufani graduated with honours in 2008 from Seneca’s flight program, the college said in a statement. Apart from making the President’s Honour List, he won an Air Canada Jazz Award, the Global Aerospace Underwriting Managers Award, the Sheryl Lee Memorial Award and the Ted Brown Memorial Bursary.
After graduating he completed instructor training and joined the school in August 2008.
Despite his age, Theuma said Yoosufani as a pilot was “the kind of guy you would trust with your life if you knew him.”
He’d recently upgraded to a Class 1 instructor before his death. He’d also recently proposed to the lady in his life.
Theuma said he was set to be married sometime in the future. The Toronto Star is reporting the date was set for next month.
“I know that he really loved her,” Theuma said of the relationship between Yoosufani and his fiancee. “He was really excited.”
A devout Muslim, Yoosufani was both academic and charismatic, Theuma said. “He had so many friends. There was no one that didn’t like him.
“I think it was just the fact that he accepted everyone for who they were. He didn’t try to change people.
“He was definitely the kind of person who lived for other people,” she said. “He would drop everything and he would be there for you whether or not he had time.”
She said he was fond of spending time with his friends and caring for his car, an Acura Legend. But he loved the little things in life, too, she said, including an “absolute adoration” for Tim Hortons iced cappuccino and bagels with cream cheese.
Not long after earning his wings, she said, Yoosufani flew into Windsor to spend time with his friends — and to take them to the Tim Hortons near the airport.
In the end, Theuma said, Yoosufani died doing what he loved most: flying.
“He went and he did it,” he said. “He had the guts to do what he did.”