The search for billionaire adventurer, Steve Fossett, has not only widened in its scope but it looks like hope in finding the missing airman is fading just as fast. Recently inducted this year into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, Fossett went missing in his blue and white single-engine Bellanca Super Decathlon plane 14 days ago. The mystery widens as to how Fossett seemed to have just vanished into thin air; taking into consideration that searchers have since found at least eight other wrecked planes, some decades old, that there is a huge amount of support from volunteer searchers, even what seems to be hundreds of individual volunteer persons using Google Earth and Amazon Mechanical Turk and the fact that his electronic location beacon did not go off.
Theories emerged that Fossett may have pulled a ‘disappearing act’ with intent until that idea was ruled out eventually about a week ago. The search for Fossett’s plane widened to include the rugged eastern Sierra Nevada, including the sun-scorched Black Rock Desert. It is also taking in the inky blue depths of Walker Lake, which separates Nevada and California. Tim Evinger, sheriff of Klamath County, Ore., and his dive team have provided support for the underwater search of Walker Lake.
The aircraft’s last confirmed position on Monday (3 September) at approximately 10:30 A.M. local time showed Steve west of Powell Canyon (south of Walker Lake and southwest of Hawthorne), proceeding east towards the canyon. This location is less than 30 miles SE from his point of departure / expected arrival. Steve was expected to return to the ranch around 11:00 - 11:30 AM.
The search team comprises Civil Air Patrol (CAP) aircraft from Minden, Nevada and Bishop, California, many of them volunteers; the Air National Guard from Reno; Army National Guard helicopters and private aircraft (8 helicopters and 5 fixed wing) based at the Flying M Ranch scouring the high desert and mountainous terrain for signs of Steve’s Decathlon plane or a crash site.
The terrain as described by Gail Mizner, a self-employed electrical consultant from Bakersfield, has “some of the roughest mountains in the United States.” The CAP web site said as of last Thursday, volunteers had flown 345 flights, totaling more than 1,000 flight hours in search of Fossett. Patrol members from Nevada, Utah, California, Idaho, Oregon and Colorado have taken part. Fossett is being sought by air, water and also with foot patrols. Each flight that takes off carries at least one pilot and two searchers with binoculars.
The Nevada terrain itself places flights at risk due to strong gusts of winds. Because Fossett filed no flight itinerary as it was impractical to do so since he was on a search for terrain to run yet another record - namely to break the land-speed record in a jet-powered race car, the search has proven particularly difficult. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aviation Experts, a San Clemente, California-based aviation consulting firm has said:
“This is kind of strange because these aircrafts have transponders and emergency locators and you can usually readily find them anywhere in the world, including under the sea, …. This guy is totally lost…. So far, nobody’s heard the electronic location beacon,” said Aimer, who has flown the region several times. “That sounds to me very, very strange. There’s all kinds of possibilities.”
Fossett’s now seemingly mysterious disappearance has spawned rampant speculation on the internet about possible conspiracies and government involvement, fueled in part by CNN journalist Miles O’Brien’s on-air comments last week that Fossett may have wandered into restricted airspace in the military’s top-secret Area 51 or Nellis Air Force Base. Maj. Cynthia S. Ryan, spokeswoman for the Civil Air Patrol Nevada Wing, called such notions “laughable” as she reasoned that both sites are more than 300 miles from the 50 mile search area and that:
..”such disappearances aren’t unheard of in these parts, … the region’s mountains are “full of plane wreckage that nobody’s ever found”.
Fossett broke the record for the fastest nonstop global flight in 2005 as well as over 115 speed or distance records on land, air, and water. He is described as so tenuous and resilient that many are convinced that he would have been able to light a fire without instruments or equipment, dig water from dry river beds, use cactus to find drinking water and walk many miles if he had survived a crash or emergency landing. The many who believed that he would make it are now becoming less confident in the hopes of finding him alive. Noticeably, Fossett did not send out any emergency message during his fated flight or if he crash landed safely; this leads many to fear the worst.
If you’d like to help search for Steve via Google Earth, please visit the Amazon Mechanical Turk ‘Artificial Artificial Intelligence‘. To view in Google Earth, load the KML file below then cut and paste:
in the “Fly To” box found at the top left corner of the application. For a similar viewing experience in Google Earth to the above image, navigate to an altitude of roughly 1,500 feet.
IMPORTANT: Please ensure that you’ve loaded the following KML file below in Google Earth before navigating to the co-ordinates. Otherwise, you risk looking at old and irrelevant images.
KML file for Google Earth Searching: