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Search remains ongoing for long-lost stone airplane

Provided by Robert Belopavlovich This photo presents the only real clue to the location of the stone plane it features. In the background, there’s a shafthouse thought to be from the old LaSalle mine. It’s currently the best clue to the location of the stone plane.

By JOSHUA VISSERS

Houghton Daily

Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON — A search operation is underway for an airplane in Copper Country, but not one that ever left the ground. You may be familiar with the stone boats, like the one in Kearsarge, but photographs of an airplane with similar stone construction have been surfacing in the area, too.

“We had this picture for years and years,” said Jim Stimac, 84. “It was taken before I was born, in fact.”

The photo clearly shows a near-life-size plane with a single prop and floats for landing on water, all built out of stone and mortar with wood and metal support.

“My guess is that the photo was taken on the weekend, my brother and sister were on the plane…,” Stimac said. “Almost surely, they were out for a Sunday drive.”

Stimac’s older siblings are standing near and sitting on the plane, nicely dressed for the photograph.

Robert Belopavlovich supplied another photograph, with three men standing in front of the plane, one of which he said was his uncle. This photo provides a helpful clue to the location of the plane. In the background, on the left side of the photo, a shafthouse can be seen. Several people, including Gazette staff historian Graham Jaehnig, believe it to be from the LaSalle mine.

“Some people think it was on the old county road… but we don’t think so,” said Paul Lehto, a Calumet Township resident searching for the plane’s location.

“It’s got to be south of town, south of Calumet somewhere,” he said.

Like the stone ships, the airplane is thought to be an old Department of Public Works project, but no records have been uncovered. Many of the people involved in the search are working with the understanding that they may only find the barest of remains.

“I imagine that there is something left of the plane, even if it’s just a pile of rubble,” said National Parks Services archivist Jeremiah Mason, in an email. “But the brush has grown up so much it may be hard to see it.”

At the time the photos were taken, the area was cleared of trees and brush.

Continuing efforts are underway to search through the plane, by walking the ground, searching records, and studying the photographs. If you have information to contribute to the search, you can contact Joshua Vissers at the Gazette 906-482-1500, Paul Lehto at the Calumet Township Office at 906-337-2410, or Jeremiah Mason at NPS’s Lake Superior Collection Management Center at 906-483-3032.

“I’m sure there are others who took pictures of it,” Stimac said.

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