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Wed, Sep 05, 2007

Aided By Weather, Crews Resume Search For Steve Fossett

ARCHER Imaging Plane, Google Maps Among Technology In Use

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 09.05.07 1925 EDT: While there's still no sign of missing adventurer Steve Fossett, over two days after he disappeared over Western Nevada... search crews took advantage of clear, calm weather Wednesday to expand their search, using a multitude of advanced technology systems.

Among the equipment being used to search for Fossett is ARCHER, high-tech hyperspectral imaging equipment capable of distinguishing between objects on the ground, according to Agence-France Presse. The Civil Air Patrol has deployed the imaging device onboard a plane flown in from Utah.

"ARCHER is essentially something used by the geosciences," CAP spokeswoman Major Cynthia Ryan said. "It's pretty sophisticated stuff ... beyond what the human eye can generally see."

Crews will input the dimensions of Fossett's missing Super Decathlon into the system, which will then compare that information against images taken of the search area. ARCHER can distinguish between an unadulterated section of ground, and objects consistent with aircraft wreckage.

The search for Fossett may also receive some help from Google, which has detailed satellite images of the search area.

"I'm talking with friends at Google about seeing whether we can look at satellite images over the last four days to see whether they can see which direction he might have been flying and whether they can see any disturbances anywhere that they can pin from space," British tycoon Sir Richard Branson, a close friend and supporter of Fossett's, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

For the moment, however, the search goes on... and the clock is ticking.

Original Report

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 09.05.07 1400 EDT: Aided by clear skies and significantly calmer winds, rescuers resumed their search Wednesday for billionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, two days after the small plane he was piloting disappeared over a remote, rugged section of Western Nevada.

As ANN reported, Fossett took off from a private airstrip north of Yerington, NV Monday morning in a Bellanca Super Decathlon (N240R, shown below), to scout out dry lakebeds for a planned land-speed record attempt later this year. He has not been heard from since.

Rescue aircraft scoured some 600 square miles of terrain, believed to be where the adventurer and skilled pilot went missing.  One rescuer Tuesday likened search efforts to "searching for a needle in a haystack," reports Agence-France Presse.

Those efforts were hindered somewhat by strong winds and turbulence over the high desert terrain. Nevada State Police spokesman Chuck Allen reports conditions are far more hospitable Wednesday.

"The winds have co-operated today. That will allow the helicopters to fly low. The conditions are perfect," Allen said.

As crews continue their search, Fossett's friends and family expressed optimism the adventurer -- who has survived numerous close calls in the past, on his way to claiming 115 world records in five different sports, including aviation-related interests -- would be found alive and well.

"If he's landed and he's not too badly hurt, he's the one person in the world who will be mentally and physically equipped to get out of it," said British tycoon Sir Richard Branson, a close personal friend of Fossett's who also financed a number of his record attempts..

Rescuers are cautiously optimistic Fossett will be found alive. "He's a very savvy and methodical and determined pilot. I'd give him the highest odds," said Major Cynthia Ryan, spokesperson for the Civil Air Patrol.

One thing is certain... despite the large search area, rescuers plan to continue their search for as long as it takes.

"We anticipate this lasting several days, until there is a development," Allen 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.stevefossett.com, www.cap.gov

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