Chicago aviation student took own life in UND plane crash; parents hope some good can come of it

University working with FAA to get pilots mental health help after student's suicide

Thursday, January 27, 2022
Chicago parents hope some good can come from son's death
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Chicago aviation student John Hauser his took own life in a University of North Dakota plane crash; now his parents hope some good can come of it.

CHICAGO -- The parents of a University of North Dakota student from Chicago whose career as a pilot was just taking off are speaking out about their son's final flight, in which he took his own life.

The sophomore was flying in the sky with a deep secret: The 19-year-old aviation student was depressed, WDAY reported.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach out to the National SuicidePrevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.

John Hauser loved to fly.

He actually would stick a GoPro on the window of any airplane he got on so he could study landings.

The young man who grew up in Chicago started working when he was 14 to start saving for his pilot's license, which he obtained before he started at UND.

But his dream was cut short by a feeling of helplessness.

Hauser's love for transportation started at a young age.

"He would take his blocks and build replicas of the L train here in Chicago, and for a long-time he wanted to be a Chicago bus driver," his father Alan Hauser said.

Over the years, he took his love to new heights.

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"He knew since eighth grade he wanted to be a commercial pilot," Hauser said.

John Hauser chose to fulfill those dreams at UND, impressed with the program and number of planes, giving him plenty of opportunities to fly.

But his flight on Oct. 18 would forever change his family and the university.

"We were eating dinner, and, as John would usually do, he texted us to say he had a flight," his mother Anne Suh said.

Suh told her son she loved him. A short time later, John Hauser's parents, girlfriend and friends all received text messages.

"Basically saying goodbye to us, he loved us, some contact information for his roommate, the airport, his tail number," Suh said.

An hour later, his crashed plane was found in a farm field by Buxton, North Dakota. He was a young man who seemed to have everything in life - chasing his dream, good grades, a girlfriend and a member of a fraternity.

"He left behind several letters to us and his friends in which he explained had been struggling for some time, that he felt trapped," his father said.

His parents said not one person had any indication their son was depressed, including them. They are physicians with training in psychiatry.

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"He spelled it out very clearly to us in his letters that he wanted to get help but that he would have to give up flying if he got help, and, in his words, he said life is not worth living if he could not fly," Alan Hauser said.

Their son also made a request in one of those letters.

"If you can do anything for me, try to change the FAA rules so that other young pilots don't have to go through what I went through," his father said.

Days after his death, his parents launched the John A. Hauser Mental Health in Aviation Initiative Fund. It has two main goals: In the short term, give aviation students across the country wiggle room to seek help.

Right now, a trip to see a counselor or doctor could cost your pilot's license. The long-term goals include working with the FAA to make it easier for students to seek help and include it in the curriculum.

Those first steps were discussed this week when UND hosted a first of its kind summit, a virtual meeting with industry, government and academic leaders and students.

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"He can't be alone; we know there are likely other aviation students and students in general who are suffering," Suh said.

The parents are hoping their tragedy can create change.

"It's really what we have; if we save the life of another student pilot or another pilot who is working, that would mean everything to us, would have meant everything to John," Suh said.