RENO, Nev. (AP) — Teams searched rugged terrain Tuesday for a plane carrying aviation adventurer Steve Fossett, the first person to circle the world solo in a balloon, but crews had little idea where the plane might be, federal officials said.
Fossett took off in the single engine Bellanca at 8:45 a.m. Monday at a private airstrip in western Nevada and didn’t return as scheduled. A friend reported him missing, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Maryland.
“The Civil Air Patrol is looking for him. One problem is he doesn’t appear to have filed a flight plan,” Gregor said.
“They are working on some leads, but they don’t know where he is right now,” Gregor said.
The search for the millionaire entrepreneur was being coordinated by the Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center in Langley, Va., Gregor said. The Nevada Division of Emergency Management and the Nevada Highway Patrol were assisting.
Fossett, of Beaver Creek, Colo., took off from an airstrip at hotelman Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch, about 70 miles southeast of Reno in the south end of the Smith Valley, Trooper Chuck Allen said.
“They don’t know exactly where he was going,” Allen said.
A telephone message left for a Peggy Fossett in Beaver Creek was not immediately returned. Steve Fossett is married to the former Peggy Viehland of Richmond Heights, Mo.
In 2002, Fossett became the first person to fly around the world alone in a balloon. In two weeks, his balloon flew 19,428.6 miles around the Southern Hemisphere. The record came after five previous attempts — some of them spectacular and frightening failures.
Three years later, in March 2005, he became the first person to fly a plane solo around the world without refueling.
He and a co-pilot also claim to have set a world glider altitude record of 50,671 feet during a flight in August 2006 over the Andes Mountains.
Fossett, a Stanford University graduate with a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, came to Chicago to work in the securities business and ultimately founded his own firm, Marathon Securities.
The 63-year-old has climbed some of the world’s tallest peaks, including the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He also swam the English Channel in 1985, placed 47th in the Iditarod dog sled race in 1992 and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in 1996.
In 1995, Fossett became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon, landing in Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Fossett was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in July. He told a crowd gathered at the Dayton Convention Center in Ohio that he would continue flying.
“I’m hoping you didn’t give me this award because you think my career is complete, because I’m not done,” Fossett said.
Fossett said he planned to go to Argentina in November in an effort to break a glider record.