Remains Linked To 2017 Ghost Flight Case


Skeletal remains found near Saginaw, Michigan, in 2018 may be those of a pilot who committed suicide by jumping from a Cessna 172 the year before. As we reported, late in the evening of March 15, 2017, Ontario Provincial Police were alerted to a plane crash in the woods near Manitouwadge, Ontario. They found the wreckage of a 172 but no trace of the pilot or any passengers. The ghost aircraft belonged to a company at Ann Arbor Airport and had been rented by Xin Rong, a 27-year-old doctoral student at the University of Michigan, about four hours before the crash. He was also reported missing.

According to Jalopnik, the bones found near Saginaw were examined by an anthropologist who said so many bones were so badly broken “it was possible the person fell from an airplane.” It wasn’t until last month that advanced DNA test results determined the remains could have belonged to someone from eastern Asia, as Xin was. More tests are being done to see if they can be positively identified as belonging to Xin. 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Doctoral student?… the area studied was left out. I might jump from a plane too once I realized I spent a half million dollars of borrowed money with unforgivable debt on a college degree in gender studies… jumping out of a plane without a parachute seems like a smarter choice.
    No worries, there are people in congress want you to pay for their mistakes now. Of which I’m almost inclined to agree with… if they file for bankruptcy and the college is required to pay back the money for providing a faulty product.

    • ROFL. But key parts of the problem are:
      – people who do not know what they want to do in life, too many people say ‘get a college degree’, so they grab something they think is interesting
      – artiste wannabes who lack talent, aptitude, perseverence to learn to produce quality (and subjects more people will pay for instead of junk), and business sense (you have to promote yourself and handle the business end of the activity)

      OTOH, one lady in the long study program to be a psychiatrist first obtained Red Seal certification in a trade she liked, to pay for getting a PhD. Smart.

      Some high schools where I live are making a real effort to inform students about trades that pay good money, with some hands-on tries (Grade 10 is a good time to inform). Drop-out rate from apprentice programs is high in the first year, albeit some employers are not good people.

    • Richard, please do not ever reply again to an aviation based story with such inconsiderate tone. There are enormous consequences to suicide.

  2. Is it necessary to turn even a suicide into a political issue? Speculation about field of study and student debt? Really? The man committed suicide. That’s all we know. He just have been unwell. I feel for him and his family. Let’s try to retain our humanity, folks. RIP.

    • You are forgetting that the comment was by “Richard G”, who turns EVERYTHING into a political issue. Not sure if he/she is even a pilot… Sometimes an event, situation or occurrence is just what it looks like, and evidence should be taken at whatever it proves to be. If that proof is inconvenient to one’s preconceptions, just accept it and move on. Also, let’s try not to confuse opinions with facts…

  3. While he may have committed suicide, things aren’t always as they appear. A long time ago I was almost tossed from a plane while trying to close a door in flight. Thank goodness it was a low wing Apache and after the brain dead attempt to shove the door out into the slipstream to gain more closing force, I was left outside the plane with my butt on the wing and a death grip on the door. If I had been tossed or it been a high wing plane, I’m sure that when the “ghost plane” crash was found, all would wonder why I had jumped. I learned many lessons that flight and one was, what seems obvious may not be correct.

    • Oh Bill B, forcing yourself out of the door to try to close it!!????
      You can’t believe WE believe you on that one!
      (From a “hundreds of hours”) of Apache time pilot.

  4. My flight instructor told me a story about securing an open cargo door that was totally sketchy, and I read another article about a guy who unbuckled his seat-belt to secure a loose passenger door and almost fell out the plane.
    Imagine doing this and thinking on the way down “man that was dumb, now everyone is going to think that I committed suicide”