OT: Michigan Student possibly involved in 'Ghost Plane' crash

Submitted by Horace Prettyman on March 21st, 2017 at 3:40 PM

A developing story about a plane crashing in Ontario with no sign of a pilot inside. Police have traced the plane back to a missing U of M graduate student.





March 21st, 2017 at 3:53 PM ^

Wild guess that the pilot jumped out, maybe a fake death scenario? The plane's range is just over the distance from Ann Arbor to the crash site. Would be curious to see when the last communication with the pilot was during the flight, I don't know enough of flying to know how often these smaller planes communicate with towers.

MI Expat NY

March 21st, 2017 at 4:15 PM ^

The plane was scheduled to land in Harbor Springs, well short of where the plane crashed.  I think it's a reasonable assumption that the pilot did not wait until running out of fuel to decide to bail to safety.  Possible, obviously.  Maybe the pilot fell asleep or always had a different destination in mind.  Just not likely.  

San Diego Mick

March 22nd, 2017 at 12:19 AM ^

a 4 seat Mooney and he had to land his plane once on a freeway because it was malfunctioning and he used the plane as a glider to land it, I believe you can do that with small planes.

So any pilot who knows what they're doing should be able to do that otherwise you shouldn't be flying a plane in the first place.

Mister B

March 22nd, 2017 at 11:58 AM ^

All single engine planes must have a survivable glide ratio to be certified as air-worthy by the FAA. On top of that, unless you're flying an aerobatics plane, there isn't going to be a parachute available. So there is zero possibility that a small plane pilot is ever going to jump out of the plane voluntarily because of something mechanical. Even if the thing is actively on fire, you're taught to kill the fuel supply to the engine and glide it to the nearest field, road, river, clearing in the woods, whatever.


March 21st, 2017 at 4:18 PM ^

It would be unusual for a pilot in a plane like this to have a parachute in case of emergency, so the emergency-bail-out scenario is unlikely. If he had a parachute and used it, either he is very unusual, or planned on using it all along.


March 21st, 2017 at 4:33 PM ^

I just saw that the crash site was basically on the north shore of Lake Superior.  That seems like a pretty important detail, since it obviously wouldn't have been safe to jump while the plane was over the lake.  

If the pilot was trying to fake his death, maybe he jumped over the UP somewhere and assumed the plane would crash into the lake?  


March 21st, 2017 at 4:06 PM ^

I was telling my kids the story this morning, and proposed the exact same theory. I assume you cannot "rent" a plane without an active pilot's license. So it's unlikely someone with the level of expertise would "accidentally" fall out of an airplane mid-air. So it's gotta be a "I'll jump, the plane will crash, and everyone will think I'm dead" scenario. 

After telling this to my kids, my 13 year old responded with, "or, the person really did crash and die, but then a wolf dragged the body off." God I love my kids... 


March 21st, 2017 at 3:55 PM ^

In addition, Sgt. Peter Leon, media coordinator for Ontario police, said there was nothing to suggest the pilot was in the plane at the time of the crash. Officials searched the nearby area, but the pilot has not been located.

Saw this on Channel 7 in Detroit this morning, and that part above is perhaps the most intriguing aspect to me. 

LSA Aught One

March 21st, 2017 at 4:06 PM ^

The kid is obviously the love child of DB Cooper and a bartender he knocked up while on the lam.   My guess?  He's heading for Alert, NU, CA.




If anyone ever says, "Hey, where did LSA Aught One go?"  The answer is Alert.


March 21st, 2017 at 4:02 PM ^

The most interesting part of this to me is that a student was able to rent a plane! I didn't even know you could do that, let alone a student (grad or not). I'm guessing that doesn't come cheap? Does the rental service person really try to up-sell you on the extra insurance? So many questions.

MI Expat NY

March 21st, 2017 at 4:18 PM ^

On the post-9/11 bit, a little cessna plane couldn't do much damage, could it?  I remember shortly after 9/11 a Yankees pitcher crashed his plane into a building in Manhattan.  Obviously still a life threatening situation if anyone happened to be at the crash point, but relatively little overall damage to the building.  


March 21st, 2017 at 4:37 PM ^

Well, the same is true of a U-Haul truck--as has been sadly demonstrated.

At some point life goes on.  We can't just stop renting airplanes or trucks or whatever other legitimate vehicle people need just because some a-hole might repurpose it for destructive means.  


March 21st, 2017 at 5:11 PM ^

What surprises me is not that you can rent an aircraft at all, but that the standards are apparently loose enough that a college student can rent one. From a liability standpoint alone that seems questionable.


March 21st, 2017 at 4:48 PM ^

The useful load on most single engine, 4-seat planes is fairly low. Which is probably why we haven't seen many of them used in terrorist attacks. If the bad guys go to all the trouble of recruiting or training a pilot, there are many larger, much more lethal options available to them.

We're used to thinking of aircraft as dangerous in this regard, but I worry much more about vehicles without wings than with them.


March 21st, 2017 at 7:28 PM ^

Not sure if this is entirely your point, but people are generally pretty bad at assessing relative risks. I guess it's a legacy of avoiding the place where a relative died from snakebite or saber toothed tiger attack, and then being rewarded for that by passing on your DNA. In that way, we're pre-programmed to fear things we don't really understand, and for much of the public, aviation falls into that category.

This is made worse by the media, who also don't understand what they report on very well, and sensationalize aviation accidents--especially in general aviation.

I can't think of too many articles I've read about GA accidents that were well informed or even reasonably accurate; most are far from it, and that even includes one where I was interviewed as a witness.

So yeah, there are much bigger risks out there.