Nevada Guard Aids Search for Missing Pilot Fossett
By Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2007 Searching in some of the most remote areas in the most mountainous state in the United States, Nevada National Guard members continue to seek the whereabouts of millionaire adventurer and pilot Steve Fossett today.
The Nevada Air National Guard launched a C-130 Hercules airplane equipped with “Scathe View” technology at about 8 a.m. today.
The Nevada Army Guard also dispatched a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to assist in the search, which encompasses several hundred square miles of northwestern Nevada and stretches into the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California.
“The area we are looking in is about 600 square miles,” wrote Air Force Capt. April Conway, the Nevada National Guard public affairs officer, via e-mail from the aircraft. “We are searching from about 75 miles west of Yerington to about 100 miles east of Yerington and south into Mammoth, Calif.”
The Nevada National Guard C-130 also had flown last night, until 2 a.m. today. Conway said the Nevada Air Guard C-130 and the Army Guard UH-60 were the only aircraft in the region equipped to search at night.
A Nevada Army Guard observational helicopter equipped with forward-looking infrared radar also participated in the search yesterday. The system enables pilots to steer their vehicles at night and detect warm objects against a cold background even in complete darkness.
The Nevada Air Guard’s Scathe View imagery system consists of a sensor mounted to a modified C-130. The turret is controlled by on-board imagery analysts working at a sensor control workstation. The analysts can link full-motion video to ground staff for review. The Scathe View equipment is manned by the Nevada Air Guard’s 152nd Intelligence Squadron.
The aerial search yesterday included 14 aircraft and featured grid searches over more than 7,500 square miles, which is an area larger than Connecticut.
Other organizations assisting in the search and providing aircraft are the Nevada and California Civil Air Patrols and California and Nevada Highway Patrols.
According to wire reports, Fossett, 63, the first person to circle the world solo in a balloon, took off solo early Sept. 3 from the Flying M Ranch, a private airstrip owned by hotel magnate William Barron Hilton and located about 70 miles southeast of Reno near Yerington. The Bellanca Citabria Super Decathlon that he was flying is equipped with a locator that sends out a satellite signal after a rough landing, but no such signal has been received by aviation officials.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Fossett did not file a flight plan. “We believe he was looking for dry lake beds,” Conway told the Washington Post. “It was just supposed to be an up-and-down trip.”
Apparently, he was scouting out areas for a land-speed record attempt. A northern Nevada newspaper said Fossett has an application pending before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for a permit in Nevada’s rural, central Eureka County to attempt to break the land-speed record of 766.6 mph.
In addition to his aerial exploits, Fossett has swum the English Channel, participated in the Iditarod dog sled race and driven in the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in France.
“He is an adventurer. He has been in an awful lot of scrapes in his life, and he probably has better chances than you and I of walking away from something that was potentially dangerous,” Conway told the Los Angeles Times.
The weather in northern Nevada today was expected to remain calm with clear skies with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s.
Aircraft from the Nevada Army National Guard helped locate a lost hiker in Esmeralda County, Nev., on May 30 after receiving a call for assistance from state emergency management officials. The Nevada Air National Guard also recently helped in the search for three missing hikers missing on Mount Hood in Oregon in December.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)