Disappearance of Fossett mystifies; Hope dwindles as search continues

Steve Fossett took on risks as big as anybody -- circling the globe non-stop by hot-air balloon, sailing solo across oceans -- and as small, by comparison, as swimming the English Channel and climbing the Matterhorn. But the 63-year-old...


Fossett's plane, like an estimated 150-200 that lie undiscovered in the vastness of the Sierra, may never be found, Ryan says. Pilots who have located old crash sites in their search for Fossett have stirred false anticipation.

"It's been a roller coaster in the emergency operations center," Ryan says. "When they call in and think they've found him, everyone gets really excited. Then when we find out it's a previously unrecorded wreck, everything kind of goes down to zero again."

Dozens of Internet tips from satellite photos have not been helpful so far. "You've got a lot of armchair searchers out there who really have no idea what a crash site looks like," Ryan says.

Fossett didn't file a flight plan before taking off from the airstrip at the Flying M, a million-acre ranch 70 miles southeast of Reno. Owner Hilton -- Paris Hilton's grandfather -- provides a luxury getaway for aviators and astronauts, a crowd among whom Fossett, holder of at least six world aviation and sailing records, was a star. It hasn't been reported whether Fossett had food and water on board.

Salvation Army workers at an operations camp in Minden say they feel a darker mood among searchers. "You can tell everybody is sort of starting to sense something ominous coming," volunteer Wayne Church says. "I mean, he's been out there a long time."

Contributing: Matt Farley, Reno Gazette-Journal

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SUBJTYPE = PHOTO, B/W, Lisa J. Tolda, Reno Gazette-JournalBy Kim Komenich, San Francisco Chronicle, via AP2003 photo by Scott Barbour, Getty Images; PHOTO, B/W, Lisa J. Tolda, Reno Gazette-JournalBy Kim Komenich, San Francisco Chronicle, via AP2003 photo by Scott Barbour, Getty Images; PHOTO, B/W, Lisa J. Tolda, Reno Gazette-JournalBy Kim Komenich, San Francisco Chronicle, via AP2003 photo by Scott Barbour, Getty Images; GRAPHIC, Color, Lisa J. Tolda, Reno Gazette-JournalBy Kim Komenich, San Francisco Chronicle, via AP2003 photo by Scott Barbour, Getty Images

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