Rescue teams are scouring tracts of Nevada in the hope of locating missing millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, who took off on Monday in a single-engined aircraft to scout possible locations for a planned attempt on the world land-speed record, AP reports.
Fosset took off at 8.45am on Monday from hotelier Barron Hilton's Flying M Ranch, roughly 70 miles southeast of Reno. He hadn't filed flight plan for the trip aboard a Bellanca Citabria Super Decathalon, and was later reported missing by a friend. According to U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials, Fossett has "an application pending for a permit to attempt the land-speed record on federal land in north-central Nevada's Eureka County, more than 150 miles away", but they were unsure if he was considering other sites.
Thirteen search aircraft worked a grid pattern in conjunction with ground teams across hundreds of square miles of "rugged" terrain, but FAA spokesman Ian Gregor admitted: "They are working on some leads, but they don't know where he is right now."
Maj. Cynthia S. Ryan of the Civil Air Patrol said: "We are committing maximum resources to this effort. As far as we know now, it is still a rescue mission." She adeed that although Fossett had "full radio capability", he hadn't been in touch since taking off.
Fossett's friend and financier of many of his adventures, Sir Richard Branson, said: "Steve is a tough old boot. I suspect he is waiting by his plane right now for someone to pick him up. The ranch he took off from covers a huge area, and Steve has had far tougher challenges to overcome in the past. Based on his track record, I feel confident we'll get some good news soon."
Fossett's many escapades include the world's longest uninterrupted flight - 26,389.3 miles in 76 hours and 45 minutes aboard the Virgin GlobalFlyer in 2006, the first solo round-the-world in a balloon flight in 2002 and a claimed world glider altitude record of 50,671 feet over the Andes in 2006.
In July, Fossett was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and told the crowd at Ohio's Dayton Convention Center: "I'm hoping you didn't give me this award because you think my career is complete, because I'm not done." ®