Mystery of pilotless plane remains unsolved as single engine Cessna crashes onto shore of Lake Super
Upon investigation, there was no trace that anyone had landed with the plane—and no footprints in the snow
A single-engine Cessna 172 aircraft crashed near the north shore of Lake Superior at 11:38 p.m. March 15, but there was no sign that a body had gone down with it.
The aircraft, which is registered to the University of Michigan Flyers Inc., was rented to a Chinese national studying at the University of Michigan, officials told the Thunder Bay News.
The University of Michigan Police Department has since released the identity of 27-year-old Xin Rong, a graduate student.
Upon investigation, there was no trace that anyone had landed with the plane—and no footprints in the snow.
“When (the pilot) exited, and how (the pilot) exited, is still a mystery,” Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigator Peter Rowntree told the Chronicle Journal.
The flight was originally chartered for an intra-state trip departing from Ann Arbor Municipal Airport, spokesperson for the University of Michigan, Diane Brown said.
According to the flight plan, it was supposed to land in Harbor Springs, Mich. but instead the flight eventually crashed 25 km southeast of the mining town of Manitouwadge, Ont.
Travelling a total 407 nautical miles—or 770 km—the four-seater Skyhawk was presumably placed on autopilot and crashed after it had run out of fuel, just shy of its total range of 440 nautical miles and almost 500 km north of its intended destination.
“We believe it was on auto pilot (during the flight) but we can’t prove it,” Rowntree said. The 33-year-old aircraft was not equipped with a roof hatch, nor did it possess flight-recording equipment.
Normally when you go to a crash site, there is someone there
According to Rowntree, the only way in and out of the aircraft is through the two main cabin doors.
“Certainly, it’s unusual,” Rowntree said. “Normally when you go to a crash site, there is someone there.”
The University of Michigan Police Department is now handling the situation as a missing persons case, officials say. “Our investigation is closed,” Rowntree said. “There’s nothing (pertaining to aviation safety) to learn here.”
Originally published on The National Post.