Plane carrying aviation adventurer Steve Fossett missing after leaving Nevada airstrip

Teams searched rugged terrain Tuesday for a plane carrying aviation adventurer Steve Fossett, the first person to circle the world solo in a balloon, a day after the plane vanished, federal officials said.

Fossett took off in the single engine Bellanca at 8:45 a.m. Monday at a private airstrip on a ranch south of Smith Valley 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.

The search for the millionaire entrepreneur was being coordinated by the Air Force's Rescue Coordination Center in Langley, Va., Gregor said.

"They are working on some leads, but they don't know where he is right now," Gregor said.

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 over the Andes Mountains.

Fossett, 63, of Beaver Creek, Colo., 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 will 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 plans to go to Argentina in November in an effort to break a glider record.


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