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Tue, Oct 23, 2007

Fossett Likely Won't Be The Next Amelia Earhart

Most Aircraft Lost In Nevada Eventually Located

Despite the most intensive search effort in US aviation history, millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett and his Decathlon remain missing in northern Nevada... and his friend Sir Richard Branson is afraid the aviator might be lost "forever."

But analysis of previous aircraft search efforts showed that Fossett is not likely to become the next Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix who vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 and was never found. Research by the Reno Gazette-Journal revealed only three other planes that have disappeared in the area since 1949 remain undiscovered.

Fossett vanished on what was to be a short flight out of the Flying M Ranch near Yerington, NV on September 3, as reported by ANN.

Nevada's rugged terrain has been the site of many crashes and scores of searches since the 1950s, but most aircraft were eventually found accidentally by hunters, hikers, or ranchers, in some cases years later.

Most remained missing less than one year, research by the Reno paper found.

"In a year or two, some hunter or hiker will stumble across something in the ground and kick it, and it will be a piece of his plane," said Maj. Cindy Ryan of the Nevada Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. "That's very common. That's the way I figure this will end."

The search for Fossett by aircraft and ground teams covered 20,000 square miles of rugged terrain, and was the largest in the history of the Civil Air Patrol.

CAP had 27 aircraft participating, in addition to 10 helicopters and many private fixed-wing aircraft that flew out of Barron Hilton's Flying M Ranch, the Nevada National Guard also had aircraft involved.

The search generated 7,500 calls to CAP headquarters from media and other interested parties, according to Ryan.

The Guard's aircraft cost came to just more than $1 million, she said, with the state picking up 75 percent of the tab and the rest paid out of federal training funds previously allocated to the Nevada Guard.

Google Earth, and high-tech imagery equipment and satellite photos were used in the effort, which turned up no trace of Fossett's plane, owned by Hilton.

"I'm disappointed we didn't find him," Ryan said. "It wasn't for lack of resources or trying."

"There's been a lot of hype and misinformation that even the search officials (were) passing on that Nevada and the West is a Bermuda Triangle for missing aircraft," said John Lopez Jr. of Washington, a retired Army major who has become an aviation historian. "That's not the case."

A review of newspaper archives by the Gazette-Journal last month showed 15 to 20 missing aircraft searches for which no resolution could be immediately found. But further research by the newspaper and Lopez narrowed that number to three planes that have vanished without a trace.

One aircraft has been missing for 18 years, and two others for more than 40 years.



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