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Sep-05-2007 10:14printcomments

CAP: Still No Sign of Missing Aviator Steve Fossett

An Gippsland GA-8 Airvan from the Utah Wing, equipped with CAP's ARCHER hyperspectral imaging system, was dispatched to assist in the mission.

Citabria plane photo
A Citabria Super Decathlon.
Photo: amerchampionaircraft.com

(MINDEN, Nev.) - A lone pilot, identified as famed aviator Steve Fossett, last seen Sept. 3rd, remains missing despite early search efforts by the the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, in addition to private resources from the Flying M Ranch near Yerington, Nev.; Naval Air Station Fallon; the Nevada National Guard; and the California Highway Patrol.

According to reports from the Flying M's private airstrip, where the pilot took off Labor Day morning, he was flying a Citabria Super Decathlon single-engine aircraft with the tail number N240R.

Along with the Nevada Wing, members of CAP's California and Utah wings are now participating in the search.

An Gippsland GA-8 Airvan from the Utah Wing, equipped with CAP's ARCHER hyperspectral imaging system, was dispatched to assist in the mission.

During search and rescue missions, CAP can apply ARCHER using an on-board computer to take a spectral picture of a particular object, relying on light reflected from the object.

That information is then relayed, by e-mail and satellite phone using CAP's satellite-transmitted digital-imaging system, to units on the ground as they conduct their search.

A set of parameters describing the target's color and shape is programmed into the system, and through a sophisticated algorithm, the ARCHER system is able to differentiate a potential target from background clutter.

The nation's first fully operational, large-scale hyperspectral imaging system, ARCHER can identify a target using as little as 10 percent of the target's characteristics. The search area includes an area roughly 600 square miles in size, extending from the Yerington area to Bishop, Calif., and about 200 miles wide with a western boundary following the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Searchers were first notified late Sept. 3rd that Fossett had left the private airstrip about 9:00 AM and was planning to return by noon in order to leave the area.

A formal search began at 6:00 PM that evening, as six CAP aircraft were launched with highly trained, well-equipped crews of three each in order to do sophisticated "grid" searches of hundreds of square miles of terrain in areas where the pilot may have been.

The search resumed at 7:00 AM from the CAP mission base in Minden, Nev. Searchers accumulated more than 35 air hours of flying time, using up to 14 aircraft, both planes and helicopters, from CAP, the Nevada Air Guard and the California Highway Patrol.

Four ground search teams were activated from Lyon and Mineral counties in Nevada as well as Nevada and Mono counties in California.

Fossett's Citabria Super Decathalon is described as blue and white with orange stripes and blue sunburst designs on top of the wings.

The Decathalon, a well-known aircraft with a long history, is a two-seat tandem "tail dragger" capable of acrobatic maneuvers.

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Jim Mathews September 8, 2007 8:09 am (Pacific time)

What is the ceiling for a Citabria Decathalon on a 95 degree day?

Grace September 5, 2007 1:52 pm (Pacific time)

Do the searchers have any idea how far Mr. Fossett possibly could have gotten?How far is Glen Brook,Nv. from Minten,Nv.(as an idea)or prospect..I know nothing about this region.

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