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Search for plane missing north of Duluth halted by storms, resumes today

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Thursday's stormy weather put a temporary halt to the air search for a suspected downed plane in the region.

Lt. Col. Keith Bischoff of the Minnesota Civil Air Patrol said bad weather grounded the eight planes to be used in a search for a missing twin-engine plane and its pilot after they disappeared last Friday during a round-trip flight from St. Paul to Duluth.

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"We couldn't even get crews out," Bischoff said of searchers who were scheduled to fly out of the Duluth International Airport as replacements come in.

A ground search with 35 volunteers went out despite the rainy weather to look for pilot Mike Bratlie and his Piper PA-31 Navajo plane.

Bischoff said clues in the past week from the public in the search area, from Duluth and up the North Shore, have yielded nothing.

"We're chasing anything and everything coming in," he said.

With a better weather forecast for today, Bischoff said he expects Minnesota and Wisconsin patrollers to take to the air along with the ground teams.

The search has focused on the North Shore, Lake Superior and heavily forested areas in Cook County. It is based at the Duluth airport, where restaurants and groups like the Salvation Army and Red Cross are supplying volunteers with food.

Bratlie, a retired Navy and Northwest Airlines pilot, left from South St. Paul on June 8 to break in a new engine on his plane. His family notified the Federal Aviation Administration when he failed to return that night.

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