A pilot and his two-engine plane went missing on June 8, 2012 north of Two Harbors, Minnesota. Michael Bratlie was flying his Piper plane from St. Paul, Minnesota to Minnesota's North Shore. Records show that the plane went off the radar just a few miles north of Two Harbors. Ten years later and there are still no clues as to what happened.
According to an article in the Duluth News Tribune, Bratlie was an ex-Navy aviator. He also flew commercially with Northwest Airlines. The 67-year-old pilot had plenty of experience. Weather records show that there was ample visibility at 10 miles. There were only a few clouds in the sky, and the wind was gusting to 22 knots at times. None of this should have been a factor in the crash.
A flight plan was never filed for the flight. During the NTSB investigation, investigators found that the 8-seater Piper plane recently had engine work done to one of the two engines. Bratlie's flight was being used as a break-in for the engine.
Radar last showed that the plane lowered altitude from 2800 feet to 1600 feet before disappearing off the radar north of the Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel and before Encampment Island.
The search for the plane or signs of wreckage proved to be difficult because of the heavily forested area on the North Shore. If the plane did go down in Lake Superior it would also be very difficult to find. Depths of the water in the area offshore range anywhere from 70 feet deep to over 300 feet deep. An emergency beacon was never detected from the crash. That means it either wasn't working or the plane sunk and the signal was lost in the depths of Lake Superior.
A 13-day search took place before it was ultimately called off. Training exercises for search and rescue operations shifted in the following years to the area to see if they could find any sign of the wreckage when the trees didn't have their leaves. Ten years later, even after multiple tips, nothing has been found.
According to an extensive article from Inforum Communications, the Lake County Sheriff at the time, Carey Johnson, speculates that Bratilie may have ditched the plane in Lake Superior. With Bratlie's extensive training and experience, he could have theoretically set the plane down in the water without causing enough damage to create a debris field. The plane was breaking in a new engine and problems could have come out of it. We'll never know without the plane being discovered.