News: Hikers, Racers Mount New Searches For Steve Fossett
Text by Contributing Editor James Vlahos
Last fall’s disappearance of Steve Fossett—one of the 21st century’s most celebrated aviators, the first person to fly around the world alone and nonstop by both hot air balloon and plane—prompted one of the most extensive search and rescue efforts in U.S. history. But neither Fossett nor his presumedly crashed plane were ever found. The Civil Air Patrol stopped searching back in October. A smattering of private efforts continued in the succeeding months. But they, too, failed, and Fossett was declared legally dead by an Illinois judge in February.
I joined the search for Fossett to write ADVENTURE’s special report "The Vanishing" (December 2007/January 2008). In the article, we faulted the search effort for relying too much on plane- and 4WD-based search crews, and too little on hikers, who could have combed terrain that couldn’t be seen well from the sky or dirt roads. "Maybe what was needed was a lot more boots on dirt."
Maybe so. And that is a theory that new search teams, stocked with adventure racers and backcountry experts, will be testing this summer. Boots are finally hitting the dirt in a serious way.
Will the new teams succeed in finding the remains of Fossett and his plane? Probably not. The area of Nevada and California where he is believed to have crashed is still so vast that the odds are against success. But these new campaigns are the best hope yet.
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