Family: Crash victim was sweet man ‘crazed about planes’

Zubair Khan in 2006 with his brother-in-law Umar Niazi. Mr. Khan was killed Monday when his experimental plane crashed into the Long Island Sound near Mattituck. (Credit: Courtesy of Umar Niazi)

Zubair Khan in 2006 with his brother-in-law Umar Niazi. Mr. Khan was killed Monday when his experimental plane crashed into the Long Island Sound near Mattituck. (Credit: Courtesy of Umar Niazi)

When Zubair Khan first set out in February 2012 to convert a twin-engine CoZy aircraft into one with a larger single engine, he was met with skepticism from like-minded individuals on an online aviation message board. 

“Zubair, my friend, there is going to be a lot there that is harder than you think,” one man wrote the day after Mr. Khan purchased his plane from a pilot in Oregon who had abandoned a similar project.

Mr. Khan responded with the same enthusiasm he often displayed on the message board while documenting his 25-month journey from purchasing the plane — and converting it into an amateur-built fixed-wing Raven powered by a Lycoming engine — to taking it on its first test flight in March.

“I am glad you brought this up,” the West Village resident wrote. “I did ask a lot of canard builders and experts before jumping into this, and pretty much everyone told me to stay away from it. But I couldn’t.”

He concluded his response by writing: “I am so new to all of this that I am pretty much depending on these comments to save my life.”

Mr. Khan, 41, was identified Monday afternoon as the pilot who was killed when he crashed his experimental aircraft into Long Island Sound off the Mattituck shoreline during a test flight from Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley. His first test flight with the aircraft was on March 15, according to his message board posts.

Mr. Khan, a native of Pakistan and a veteran of its navy, joined his older brother in the United States, while his parents and sister stayed behind, a family member said. He earned a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1999. He and his brother both later relocated to New York City.

His parents were in the U.S. visiting Mr. Khan and his brother at the time of crash, his brother-in-law Umar Niazi said in an email.

“Zubair was the most sweetest kid to hang around,” said Mr. Niazi, a classmate of Mr. Khan’s in Pakistan in the late 1980s. “His craze for planes and flying was right from the outset,” Mr. Niazi wrote, adding that Mr. Khan’s father is a retired Pakistani Army colonel.

Mr. Khan was a financial software engineer who had worked for several major international banks in recent years, according to his online résumé on LinkedIn.

“At the moment, no one from the family is able to speak on his sudden tragic death,” Mr. Niazi wrote.

A funeral for Mr. Khan will be held at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 9 at the Islamic Center Of Melville and will continue to Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingville at 2:30 p.m.