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Fri, Sep 07, 2007

Crews Take To Horseback, Boats To Look For Steve Fossett

Expand Search Area To Over 10K Square Miles

They haven't given up hope. Search crews scouring the rugged northwestern Nevada desert for any sign of adventurer Steve Fossett intensified their efforts Thursday, significantly expanding the search area and deploying additional resources to cover as much ground -- and water -- as they can.

Civil Air Patrol Major Cynthia Ryan told reporters aircraft are now scouring a much larger section of mountainous terrain for any sign of Fossett's small, single-engine Bellanca Super Decathlon (shown at bottom.)

"The search area has expanded with the accumulated passes and that kind of thing, to an area in excess of 10,000 square miles," Ryan told Agence-France Presse. "As you can imagine, trying to make that needle stand out in a haystack that big is going to be a real challenge."

There has been no emergency signal detected in the area since Fossett disappeared Monday morning. Not only was his plane equipped with an emergency locator transmitter, but the record-setting aviator also reportedly wore a specially-made Breitling personal locator wristwatch. Crews haven't detected any emergency signals from either.

Seven aircraft took off just after daybreak Thursday to resume the search. They joined a C-130 outfitted with heat-seeking sensors that flew overnight, looking for clues on Fossett's whereabouts. Several additional fixed-and-rotary-wing aircraft joined the search as the day went on.

"Searches of this nature -- typically, they can go on for as long as two weeks and longer," Ryan said. "Four days into it, we are still scratching the surface."

Police also planned to deploy a search-and-rescue boat equipped with sonar devices on a lake near the Hilton Flying M Ranch, where Fossett took off from Monday morning, as ANN reported.

"The new information is that they're going to put a boat onto the lake with sonar equipment that can detect large and fixed objects beneath the surface of the water," Nevada State police spokesman Chuck Allen told AFP. Allen added crews would search the lake "if only to rule it out" as a place where Fossett may have gone down.

Additional personnel took to horseback, to explore canyons planes are unable to properly search from the air.

While rescuers had no information to suggest that Fossett's light plane had crashed into Walker Lake, in Mineral County, Allen said officials wanted to take to the water "if only to rule it out."

"We've got all kinds of people helping us, folks on horses who can get out to places that are hard to reach, people in 4x4 vehicles, who want to help," Allen said.

CAP spokeswoman Ryan stressed despite the discouraging lack of new information, four days into the search, crews remained upbeat. She noted a similar case involving a pilot who was found three days after his plane crashed, hanging upside-down from his harness, "quite alive."

"Barring some sort of catastrophic landing, this is entirely survivable. You have a man out there who has all the skills necessary," she said.

That sentiment was echoed by Allen.

"We're all remaining very positive and very hopeful. Each new day we all feel today's the day we're going to find him. That's the attitude we're sharing as a group," he said.

(Aero-News thanks Doug Robertson, Jr, for his permission to republish the copyrighted photo of N240R, above. Photo is from www.airport-data.com .)

FMI: www.cap.gov, www.stevefossett.com, http://dps.nv.gov

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