Thursday, September 27, 2007

Has Technology abandoned Steve Fossett


MINDEN, Nev. – Steve Fossett and technology were longtime companions, working together in record flights around the world in advanced airplanes and balloons.

But the globe-circling adventurer's comrade appears to have turned fickle during and after a three-hour Labor Day jaunt. The aircraft borrowed from hotel magnate Barron Hilton, with whom he was staying in Smith Valley, carried an emergency locator transponder, or ELT, and the noted aviator often wore a special wristwatch that allowed him to signal his location in an emergency. But rescuers have heard nothing from either.

“Technology is a two-edged sword,” Civil Air Patrol Maj. Cynthia Ryan said. “I've heard a lot of people mentioning the fancy Breitling watch that he is probably wearing. That's great. His ELT is probably working just fine. But when you've got terrain like we have here, line-of-sight issues, bouncing off of canyon walls and not getting out, then you seriously diminish the ability of technology to do what it was designed to do.” Fossett's wife, Peggy, said she did not believe her husband was wearing the watch.

In addition, Ryan said the on-board emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, could have been disabled in a crash or if the plane ended up submerged. Or its battery might have been too low.

“It's not foolproof,” she said.

Nor, it seems, is the latest gadgetry for detecting heat or objects from the air.

In addition to scores of eyes in Civil Air Patrol planes that combed a vast swath of western Nevada for two weeks, listening in vain for the transmitter's ping, other aircraft used old-fashioned infrared and a sophisticated system new to search and rescue.

On Monday, two weeks after Fossett was last seen, the Nevada Wing of the Civil Air Patrol sent home all but two of its planes, which remain at the airport in Minden. On Wednesday, the Nevada National Guard's helicopters returned to their bases. The choppers and the two Civil Air Patrol planes remain on standby to respond to any new leads.

Searchers had held out high hopes for the technological newcomer ARCHER, which can “see” objects that don't belong in places like Nevada's other-world landscape – such as a piece of airplane.

“This is the kind of terrain that Archer was born and raised in and they want to put it through its paces and see just what it can do. These are optimal circumstances to test that system,” Ryan said during the search.

It was developed in the 1990s for scientific observation and military applications and refined for search and rescue by the military and Civil Air Patrol Col. Drew Alexa, Ryan said.

While the human eye typically detects three light bands, ARCHER – an acronym for Airborne Real-time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance – can analyze 50. Mounted on the belly of a Civil Air Patrol plane, it transmits images to a monitor for instant analysis and captures the images for later use on the ground.

More traditional is infrared scanning, used on Nevada National Guard planes and helicopters to seek out a human being, even in the summertime furnace that is the Nevada desert.

“You look for different things in the daytime than in the nighttime. In the daytime you're looking for cooler whereas in the nighttime you're looking for hotter,” according to Col. Craig Wroblewski, director of operations for the Nevada Army and Air National Guard.

“In the daytime when the rocks are all sitting at 150 degrees, a human is going to show up cooler where at night the rocks cool down to 30-40 degrees, they're going to show a much darker signature than a human would.”

The Forward Looking Infrared, or FLIR on the Guard's C-130 airplane and its two UH-58 helicopters also has acute daytime eyesight.

“I've been in the helicopters down there in Las Vegas with their Forward Looking Infrared system and flying down the Strip. I've been able to zero in on somebody's license plate,” said Bill Burks, assistant adjutant general for the Nevada Air National Guard.

While the C-130 and the UH-58s initially flew daytime and nighttime sorties in the search for Fossett, they eventually were restricted to the daylight hours because of concerns about the number of planes flying in the area.

“Normally when we do a search and rescue with the helicopter, we're looking at a smaller area like in the Sierra or in Lyon County or some of our surrounding cow counties so we know right where our helicopters are searching,” Wroblewski said.

“We have a hard time at night when all the other aircraft are flying to make sure our pilots are safe. ... We think it's more safe to conduct the search during the daytime.”

In addition to the trained members of the Civil Air Patrol and the military, technology from Google and gave couch potatoes a chance to join the search.

Using a technique similar to the one that lets people find an aerial view of their house, amateur volunteers pored over high-resolution images of the rugged Nevada landscape where Fossett was thought to missing in an area twice the size of New Jersey.

The satellite images were taken within days of Fossett's disappearance, according to the Nevada National Guard, which used analysts to decipher possible sightings e-mailed by the public.

The images produced a lot of tips but no sign of the blue and white fabric-covered plane.

“Thousands of people have been sending in information,” Nevada Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Steven Snyder said. “When the Europeans get off work we get a bunch of e-mails. When the East Coasters get off work we get a bunch of e-mails.”

The Civil Air Patrol's Maj. Ryan said she doubted the technology available through Google or could match that of the government's satellite imagery.

And she said the discoveries of six planes that have been missing in Nevada for decades gives her hope that technological advances over the decades will help find Fossett's plane.

Still, Undersheriff Joe Sanford of Lyon County, where the airstrip Fossett used is located, is baffled that the adventurer's plane remains missing.

“We've got 2007 technology. ... that can count beer cans in the back of pickup. But we haven't found an airplane. That's what's frustrating,” Sanford said.

New Scientist extract, Steve Fossett

Internet volunteers transform search and rescue

  • 26 September 2007
  • Paul Marks
  • Magazine issue 2623

FROM my viewpoint above the Nevada wilderness I'm scouring the landscape for signs of a missing aircraft. I'm searching for Steve Fossett, the millionaire, record-breaking aviator whose plane went missing on the Labor Day holiday.

If it were any other search I'd be in the cockpit of a search plane, but this time it's different. I'm sitting in front of my PC, 8000 kilometres away in London, sifting through satellite photos that I, like thousands of others, downloaded to take part in an internet-based search for the missing aviator.

As New Scientist went to press, Fossett's single-engine plane was still missing, and the Nevada Civil Air Patrol had scaled down the search. But the photos scoured by online volunteers helped to reveal eight other, older aircraft wrecks that surfaced and would otherwise have been lost in the 44,000-square-kilometre area, highlighting the potential of online "crowd-sourced" search. My experience ...

One last hope to find Steve Fossett agency

  • New leads from Air Force experts have prompted Nevada authorities to restart the search this weekend for missing adventurer Steve Fossett in four counties near the Death Valley.
  • The Nevada National Guard will not take part in the search.
  • On the web, virtual searchers have been checking out satellite images for weeks.

New York. Did Steve Fossett’s (Photo Phil Romans) plane crash near the Death Valley on September 3? Sheriffs and volunteers will scan the ground in four Nevada counties this weekend to try to find the missing adventurer. New leads have prompted authorities to restart the search for Fossett. “Air Force experts analyzed data from military and civilian radars, said Chuck Allen, State Trooper with the Nevada Department of Public Safety. They made deductions and narrowed the search to an area of about 100 square miles”.

In Chicago, people at the headquarters had no such information leading them to think that the missing businessman might be close to the Death Valley. “According to my people on the ground, these reports are false, said Brian Spaeth, a spokesman for the Fossett challenge. We will not take part in the operation this weekend”.

The search remains limited. The Nevada National Guard has stopped its own search-and-rescue mission on September 18 and will not fly again over the area highlighted by the U.S. Air Force experts. The hope to find Fossett alive is almost non-existent. “There is only so much a man on his own can do in the desert, said captain April Conway, spokeswoman for the Nevada National Guard. If he was alive, he would have signaled”.

Despite their inability to find any trace of the missing aviator, Fossett’s family and friends are not giving up their private search. On Tuesday September 25, a plane with sophisticated camera gear flew again over the desert. Thousands of Internet users have joined the online search for Fossett. Early in the rescue effort, billionaire Richard Branson, a friend of the missing aviator, got the help of Google Earth and Amazon.

Google quickly requested from its providers new satellite images of the zone, where Mr Fossett’s plane went missing. Google passed those images along to And Amazon’s powerful tool divided an area of 10,000 square miles into smaller zones and assigned them to people, who signed up to help find the adventurer.

Captain Conway said the National Guard got emails all over the world and followed some leads. “At one one point, our folks were directly in contact with the people at Google Earth but the search was unsuccessful”.

In Chicago, Brain Spaeth said that 20 people keep exploring any inch of the satellite images to try to find a trace of the adventurer. “A lot of people responded to our calls for support, he said. But nothing came out of this. We did not find Steve”. The web search has limits too. “ The area where Mr Fossett went missing, is very hilly with deep valleys, Captain Conway concluded. There are canyons. If the plane crashed in one of them, it will not be visible from above”.

Jean-Cosme Delaloye

A French version of that story came out on September 27 in Tribune de Genève and 24heures in Switzerland.

New Leads in Search for Fossett

Wednesday September 26, 2007 3:46 AM


Associated Press Writer

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Relying on new leads from Air Force experts, crews looking for famed aviator Steve Fossett plan to comb a rugged area near Death Valley by air and foot, authorities said Tuesday.

Gary Derks, the state Department of Public Safety official in charge of the search, said the Air Force analyzed images picked up by radar and satellite and ``picked up what could be Mr. Fossett, his track.''

``It gives us an idea, if it's him, what direction he was going,'' Derks said of the wealthy adventurer, missing for more than three weeks.

Derks said the area stretches about 100 miles to the southeast from where Fossett took off Sept. 3, an airstrip on a million-acre ranch owned by hotel mogul Barron Hilton. Maps show the area would include Nevada's remote Silver Peak Range, close to Death Valley National Park in California.

``There's nothing definite, nothing concrete,'' Derks said. ``These are just some hits that we want to track.''

Search planes will fly over the area Saturday and Sunday, Derks said.

The area is ``very rough terrain,'' Derks said. ``If he's there, he's going to be hard to see. That's why we're sending in the ground search-and-rescue crews, too.''

A private search effort by Fossett's family and friends continued Tuesday when a plane with sophisticated camera gear took off from the ranch.

Fossett, 63, has not been seen since he left on what was supposed to be a short ride in a lightweight acrobatic plane to scout locations to break the land speed record.

The adventurer, who made millions as a commodities broker in Chicago, is the first person to circle the globe solo in a balloon. He has also swum the English Channel, completed the Iditarod sled dog race and scaled some of the world's best-known peaks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Humpty Dumpty fell on a house


This photo, taken by Debra Manuel of Plano during this weekend's Plano Balloon Festival, makes it look like the Humpty Dumpty balloon fell on a home near Alma and Legacy Drive.
Here's what Debra had to say about her experience:

Humpty Dumpty really landed in the small intersection of that neighborhood, but when I saw the photo it appears to be on the house when you look at the hat. The balloon pilot was having a rough time - the crew wasn't around as he was touching down and the balloon was very close to the Victorian-style street light so I think he was a little concerned. He was yelling for some of the crew and they came running up as we were parking the car. There were a couple of bystanders that jumped in to help bring the balloon down.

Look for more Plano Balloon Festival photos at Also check out a video of assistant editor Emily Goldstein and me going up in a hot air balloon

Monday, September 24, 2007

Steve Fossett search ends.

I picked this one up at the weekend but have held of putting it here. Very few people reported this sad fact. Of the conspiracy theorys at the bottom I like the idea of him laughing at us whilst test flying a UFO!!

From the Times online.

Wife clings to hope as Fossett hunt is halted

Tim Reid in Washington

Rescuers called off the search for the aviator Steve Fossett last night, 17 days after his light aircraft disappeared over the Nevada desert.

After 474 flights covering 20,000 square miles, the Nevada Civil Air Patrol sent its aircraft back to base and the state’s National Guard helicopters were grounded, having found no trace of Fossett or his light aircraft.

Fossett’s wife Peggy continues to fund a private search involving eight light aircraft, but with hopes fading of finding him, legal experts gave warning of a potential legal battle over his multimillion-dollar estate.

Under the law in California, where Fossett lived, it could take at least five years before his family can have him declared dead. Without a death certificate his estate, estimated at over $50 million, cannot be administered.

Members of Fossett’s adventuring team in Chicago insisted last night that the private search would continue “until we find him”. They are being helped by internet users around the world who are examining live images of the Nevada terrain provided by Google. Brigadier General Amy Courter, of the Civil Air Patrol, said she had seen cases in which “people have survived much longer than this”. But her patrol is no longer actively looking for him.

Fossett, 63, the first person to circumnavigate the globe solo in a balloon and the holder of 115 aviation, speed and endurance records, disappeared on September 3 after taking off in a single-engine plane from a private airstrip to seek a site for a world land speed record attempt.

Dennis Belcher, the former head of the American Bar Association’s probate division, told The Times that if Mrs Fossett decided to have her husband declared dead, she could go to court and argue for an expedited ruling. The couple did not have any children.

But business partners or agents might have a financial interest in having him still legally alive, as income-generating agreements often terminate on death. He said court battles between parties who want a missing person declared dead and those who do not are common.

He cited a case he was recently involved in where a lawyer disappeared in his light aircraft over the sea. Neither his body nor the wreckage was ever found. A creditor wanted him declared dead as soon as possible. His family did not – his estate was declining in value because of a drop in the financial markets and they calculated that if they held off for several years, it would increase in value again. The parties spent 18 months in court. The man was eventually declared dead.

The massive search for Fossett also turned up six aircraft crash sites in the mountainous expanse of western Nevada and eastern California, with some dating back to the early 1960s.

For more than a week after the crash sites were reported, one family hoped that a 43-year mystery had been solved. Charles “Chazzie” Ogle’s single-engine plane disappeared over the Nevada desert in August 1964, and his son - who was 4 at the time – thought that the Fossett search might finally offer some answers. William Ogle, 47, said that the tragedy had “hung over me my whole life”, but last week his hopes were dashed.

Searchers said four of the wrecks were already on file with federal officials and dated from the past 30 years – although the planes’ pilots have yet to be identified.

A fifth “wreck” turned out to not be a crash site but merely debris. The sixth was dated to 1961 – three years before Mr Ogle, a multimillionaire land investor, disappeared. “We’re very sorry, but we believe now that Mr Ogle’s plane was not among the ones we’ve found,” said Major Ed Locke of the National Guard.

Conspiracy theories

Internet explanations for Fossett’s disappearance include:

—He was shot down by the US Air Force for straying too close to “Area 51” in Nevada where the Pentagon tests new aircraft

—He is not missing at all, but being used by the US Air Force as a cover story. While pretending to look for him, the military has actually been searching for a missing nuclear weapon

—He has been abducted to test-fly a UFO

Zizz zizzt

Hot Air Bag Descends on Wires
QUARRYVILLE -- A hot air balloon came down off course Sunday in East Drumore Township. Quarryville Fire Company was dispatched for a Public Service as the hot air balloon came down over wires on Solanco Road. The basket (seen at right) landed in the field opposite the Solanco High School.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Power line incident

WESTPORT, Mass. -- A hot air balloon came down unexpectedly in Westport Friday, crashing on a power line and causing a power outage in more than 100 homes.

NSTAR spokesman Mike Durand says it was not clear what caused the early morning accident that also broke a utility pole on Sodom Road.

Police said six passengers and one pilot were aboard the hot air balloon but did not know the ballon's origin or their destination. No one was seriously injured.

No other details are known at this time, refresh your page for updates from NBC 10.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hooray its the joke again.

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41
degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be in Information Technology," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information and the
fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."

The woman below responded, "You must be in Management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

TSB Canada

TSB has safety suggestions after last month's hot air balloon crash
Wednesday, September 19 - 06:46:56 PM

Andrea Macpherson/Bruce Claggett
SURREY (NEWS1130) - Fantasy Balloon Charters says it will work with investigators to make sure a disaster never happens again. It is the company involved in this summer's hot air balloon crash in Surrey, and it's pleased with the preliminary ideas being floated by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board.

John Kageorge is speaking for the company and said it plans to impliment every suggestion put forward by the TSB.

"A draft recommendation suggests there be an emergency shut off for propane, that is something that would involve the manufacturers of the equiptment, and certainly is something that seems quite needed."

The suggestions involved the handling of the propane gas system and the tether that burned when the balloon went up in flames. Kageorge said the business has suspended all flights until the end of the season, and it is focused on the people impacted by the crash. Two women died and 11 other's were hurt in the accident.

Pilot of hot-air balloon pilot who crashed helped TSB develop proposed new rules

Pilot of hot-air balloon pilot who crashed helped TSB develop proposed new rules

12 minutes ago

VANCOUVER - The pilot of a hot-air balloon that plunged to the ground in a fiery crash, killing two people last month, conducted his own experiments to help the Transportation Safety Board come up with recommendations to make ballooning safer.

John Kageorge, a spokesman for the pilot, said the Transportation Safety Board has concluded a propane fuel leak had a role in the fire that burned through the balloon's tether, setting off a series of horrific events that ended with some passengers having to jump several storeys to get out of the balloon.

The board said Wednesday investigators have come up with four recommendations.

Kageorge said Pennock has worked very closely with the board, offering his eyewitness account of the accident as well as lending his expertise as an experienced balloon pilot.

"He had a critical role in the development of these recommendations," Kageorge said.

"So much so that after each meeting the pilot had with the Transportation Safety Board, he'd spend his evenings doing considerable experiments so that he could report back theories, concepts the next day."

Board spokesman Tony Pleasants said one of the board's recommendations has to do with the fact that there's no emergency fuel shut-off systems in hot-air balloons the way there is with other aircraft.

"(Other aircraft) normally have a master emergency fuel shut-off system and there's no such thing on balloons," said Pleasants.

Two other recommendations involve the general handling of the liquid propane gas system and the tether that burned through.

Pleasants said he doesn't want to comment on the fourth.

"The fourth one - I think I really can't say too much about it because if I said anything it could be seen as kind of finding fault and we don't do that."

The recommendations were submitted to the board's Gatineau, Que., office last week and will likely be referred back to Pleasants before they are finalized.

When complete, the recommendations will go to Transport Canada, which will then order safety changes to the balloon company or even the industry as a whole.

"They (Transport Canada) could focus on the possibility of changing the regulatory structure," Pleasants said.

He said his job is to propose something while Transport Canada is charged with taking action.

The flame-engulfed hot air balloon crashed into a B.C. trailer park on Aug. 24, injuring the pilot and 10 others and killing a woman and her grown daughter.

Shannon Knackstedt and her daughter Jemma had been celebrating Shannon's 50th birthday with the hot-air balloon ride with Fantasy Balloon Charters.

Kageorge said one or two of the injured remain in hospital.

"Some people's injuries will affect them for their entire life and for that, Steve and the company are very sorry," he said.

"Some people have been able to rejoin their regular routine in their lives, although they've certainly been impacted by the trauma. Some people escaped with less injury."

Kageorge said Pennock remains emotionally devastated.

"His heart is full of sorrow for how people have been impacted by this."

No lawsuits have yet been served on the company.

Fantasy Balloon Charters voluntarily stopped operations after the accident. The hot-air ballooning season closes at the end of September, but Kageorge said the company will resume flights in May.

The company will implement all of the board's recommendations, he added.

The accident was among three involving balloons this summer.

A gust of wind dragged a balloon into a set of power lines in Calgary earlier this month but the pilot and his eight passengers weren't injured.

In August a hot air balloon fire sent three people to hospital near Winnipeg.

The balloon landed in a field, flipping the basket before a rope caught fire and the balloon burst into flames.

Transportation Safety Board makes recommendations after hot air balloon crash

Aftermath of crash at Hazelmere Campground
News1130 Photo

SURREY (NEWS1130) - An investigator with the Transportation Safety Board has made four recommendations after last month's hot air balloon crash in South Surrey that killed two people. The recommendations deal with the handling of the liquid propane gas system and the fact there's no master "kill-switch" to shut off the fuel in an emergency.

The Fantasy Charter's balloon crashed into the Hazelmere trailer park August 24th, injuring several people and killing a woman and her daughter. The TSB is trying to figure out how a fire broke out in the balloon's gondola before it plummeted into the trailer park and incinerated three recreational vehicles.


Perhaps manifolds should be banned and quick shut off mandatory??? Lets see if the Canadian and US press pick up on that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fallen pilot recovering

A Texas man who fell during a weekend hot air balloon mishap in Bossier City was recovering Monday after surgery as the Federal Aviation Administration began investigating.

Rick Ashby, 54, of Longview, Texas, was listed in good condition, according to an LSU Hospital spokesman.

The 18-year pilot broke his ankles and wrists after falling between 20 and 50 feet, his family said Monday.

Ashby and an unidentified female passenger fell out of the ULTRAMAGIC SA M-56C as it crashed Sunday morning near Bass Pro Shops in Bossier City during the Centennial Hot Air Balloon Rally, an event celebrating the city's 100th birthday. The two were playing a game in which basket occupants try to drop beanbags onto targets on the ground.

After the crash, the aircraft started drifting, and Ashby grabbed a rope attached to the basket. Witnesses, including a Bossier City police officer, have given different accounts on how far he fell after the balloon pulled him into the air. It eventually landed without a pilot across Red River after hitting a light pole on Clyde Fant Parkway.

The woman had a few bruises but did not need medical attention.

The FAA is examining Ashby's credentials and background, the balloon and environmental factors, said Roland Herwig, a spokesman for the agency.

Ashby is listed with the FAA as the owner of the airship, manufactured in 2004.

Investigators also will look into the background of Ashby's passenger.

An investigator spoke Monday with the Bossier City officer who was a witness, city spokesman Mark Natale said. The Police and Fire departments are otherwise not involved.

Sunday's accident is the second locally in less than a week in which the FAA is investigating.

That agency with the National Transportation Safety Board is trying to determine what caused the helicopter crash that killed Joseph Benjamin Grammer, 36, and Jeffery Daniel Legro, 24, on Wednesday between Hosston and Vivian.

The Fairchild-Hiller 1100 went down in the woods south of Black Lake Bayou off state Highway 2. The newly purchased, refurbished chopper was en route from Century, Fla., to Grammer's flight training school near Las Vegas.

A preliminary report is expected this week, but a final determination could take six months to a year.

Remax balloon in Whitesands Missile Range airspace

Balloon drifts into WSMR
Alamogordo Daily News
By Karl Anderson, Staff Writer

Click photo to enlarge
The ReMax balloon floats over White Sands Sunday, heading for... (Karl Anderson/Daily News)

Officials are still investigating the circumstances in which one of the balloons participating in the 16th Annual White Sands Balloon Invitational at White Sands National Monument flew east into the restricted air space of White Sands Missile Range.

Not only did the red, white and blue ReMax balloon fly into restricted air space, but it actually landed three and a half miles beyond gate 36.

The violation created a frenzy of involvement by an appointed balloon rescue team, the Border Patrol, range runners from WSMR and park rangers from WSNM.

"We received the call to respond at 10:30 a.m.," said Bill Butler, another balloon pilot who participated with the event Sunday. "We arrived at Gate 36, past the radar site. When we reached the balloon, the pilot and three passengers were still there with the balloon."

Butler said that all officials were very helpful and cooperative.

Shortly after the arrival of the rescue team, Balloon Meister Dave Chelgren arrived on the scene accompanied by two more Border Patrol agents, one of whom was the husband of one of the passengers, Butler added.

Butler explained from his perspective as a balloon pilot why he thought the violation may have occurred.

"I'm going to be professional about this and just answer that by saying the pilot of that balloon did not attend the safety briefing last Friday night," he said

The ReMax balloon is owned by Troy Bradley, of Albuquerque, who did not attend the event last weekend.

Butler said with the wind and weather being what it was last Sunday, he would have chosen an alternative launch spot.

"I personally chose to fly in town (Alamogordo) on Sunday because of the conditions at White Sands National Monument that would not have allowed us to safely go very far," he said.

Butler said he is very concerned about this incident, and feels many other pilots share the same sentiment.

"We need to keep a very positive relationship with the military and the Parks Service in this area so that we can continue to be allowed to have the White Sands Balloon Invitational at the monument," he said. "This certainly didn't do anything to enhance that relationship."

A call made to WSMR Tuesday confirmed the balloon was taken out of the area Monday.

"It did cross WSMR restricted air space," said Monte Marlin, director of public affairs for the missile range. "But where it came down was about five and a half miles west of Holloman Air Force Base in a remote eastern area of the monument."

Marlin said while the balloon did not actually land on WSMR property, it did make its landing in an area not conducive to ground traffic.

"It's a very sensitive area that can easily be harmed by ground vehicles," Marlin said. "It is in a very sensitive part of the monument."

Marlin said once all respective agencies had given clearance, it only took 40 minutes for WSMR air support to deploy and subsequently return the balloon to the helipad at the national monument.

"There have been very few incidents like this since the hot air balloons began to come for this event," Marlin said. "We are a part of this process, and we have always supported and assisted with this event each year."

Marlin was asked if repeated incidents of this nature could jeopardize the relationship the two military installations have with the balloon event.

"It's a bit premature to answer that," Marlin said. "All I can tell you at this point is that we have been and continue to support this event, but that this will be looked at very carefully."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UK Girl Guides create tether record

Well done to all involved, good job.

The toast of Namche: UK Girlguiding team breaks unofficial Tether hot air balloon record?

It was the association's first official basecamp trek and the balloon went along just for for fun and science, "no illusions of flying over the top or anything!" (Click to enlarge)

image story The voluntary team used a lightweight Ultramagic 56,000cft envelope and duochair hopper bottom end (rather than a basket). Click to enlarge.

image story "We think 3858 m is an unofficial record for a full display tether of a hot air balloon and it's certainly a first for the area," Mark Warne from the team reported to ExplorersWeb. All images courtesy of the expedition.

11:07 am EST Sep 18, 2007
( Last Sunday (Sept 9) the Girlguiding UK team succeeded at 0600 local to inflate and display Tether it's new hot air balloon above Syangboche.

"We had hoped to do so at Dingboche and EBC just get some pictures and to see if it was possible with a small balloon," the team wrote to ExWeb last week. "A combination of the appauling weather and the bridge down at Phunki Tenga aborted that, but our girls have done us proud all the same."

Just for fun and science

It was the association's first official basecamp trek and the balloon went along just for for fun and science, "no illusions of flying over the top or anything!"

The voluntary team used a lightweight Ultramagic 56,000cft envelope and duochair hopper bottom end (rather than a basket). Himalaya Expeditions porters carried all the kit up and back, the team reports.

"Certainly a first for the area"

"We think 3858m is an unofficial record for a full display tether of a hot air balloon and it's certainly a first for the area," Mark Warne from the team wrote.

"The girls have won a lot of respect from my fellow pilots worldwide for achieving something technically difficult in challenging conditions. I know very few hardened balloonists who might have tried it and even less who would have put up with the Khumbu weather over the past two weeks."

"The girls were certainly the toast of a very quiet Namche this weekend and all hope to be back to try Island Peak next year."

Steve Fossett, new images at Amazon Mechanical Turk

If you have already taken part in Amazon Mechanical Turk search for Steve you may be interested to know that newer high definition images have been added.

More info at Steves official site


Monday, September 17, 2007

Just hanging around

Lets hope this dude is not allowed to particpate in any other events until he has received some further training.

A Longview, Texas, man was injured Sunday morning when the hot air balloon he was piloting fell to the ground near Bass Pro Shops in Bossier City, causing him and a female passenger to fall out of the balloon.

Rick Ashby, 54, and an unidentified woman were participating in a game of throwing bean bags out of the balloon to hit targets on the ground when the balloon crashed, said Bossier City spokesman Mark Natale.

Ashby and his partner had already made their attempt to hit the target when the balloon was on its way down, said spectator Tim Eddington.

The balloon did seem to be descending pretty fast, Eddington said, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary when the balloon hit the ground.

As the balloon started to ascend back into the sky, Ashby grabbed a rope tied to the balloon in an attempt to prevent it from flying away.

"People around were telling him to 'Let it go, let it go,' because it just kept going higher and higher," Eddington said.

The balloon continued to rise and Ashby finally let go and fell to the ground.

Eddington, who took photos of the accident, said, "He fell 20—30 feet and the balloon crashed into a clump of trees."

A nearby Bossier City officer also witnessed the incident and estimated Ashby's fall to be between 30 and 50 feet, Natale said.

Ashby was transported to LSU Hospital with what appeared to be "broken lower extremities," Natale said, but nothing life-threatening.

The woman had a few bruises, he said, but didn't require any emergency medical attention.

The pilotless balloon flew over the river into Shreveport, where it finally landed on a light pole on Clyde Fant Parkway, Natale said.

No other injuries were reported.

The event was part of the weekend's larger Centennial Hot Air Balloon Rally, one of the many events celebrating Bossier City's 100th birthday this year, Natale said.

Helium balloon to move

Hot-air balloon needs new home

THE search is on for a new home for the DHL balloon – and it has just three months to find one.

The lease on the Tan Quee Lan Street site, where it has been based for the past 16 months, will expire on Dec 31.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority said it cannot grant an extension as there are “other plans for the site”, which it is unable to disclose now.

James Heng, chief executive of Singapore Ducktours which owns the balloon, has suggested two alternatives to the authorities: a site in Beach Road opposite Park View Hotel or at Merchant Loop opposite Novotel Clarke Quay Hotel. He has not heard from them.

The Singapore Land Authority will help to find another site, but will open it for public tender.

If no green patch is found, the balloon might have to be deflated and packed away.

“I’m very sad, it’s my baby,” said Heng, who greets his balloon every day from his office window at Suntec Tower Two.

Or it might relocate to Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru.

About S$2.5mil (RM5.75mil) has been pumped into the attraction, not including land rent which was over S$1mil (RM2.3mil) for two years. Calling it a day would cost the company S$1.2mil (RM2.76mil).

This includes S$800,000 (RM1.84mil) spent priming the ground for the balloon, plus S$60,000 (RM138,000) worth of helium.

The balloon operates daily, charging S$23 (RM52.90) for adults and S$13 (RM29.90) for children per ride. It rises to a height of 150m, about 40 storeys, and takes up to 29 passengers per trip. It has ferried 150,000 visitors to date.

Ticket sales – S$3.45mil (RM7.93mil) in the past 16 months – have been on track.

Heng is eyeing the Gardens by the Bay project in the Marina Bay area as another alternative and is in talks with the National Parks Board.

For now, Ducktours will offer free balloon rides to charities and deserving Singaporeans who write in till year-end. He said: “It’s our way of giving back to society.” – The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Gordon Bennett 2

No mention at official site

Gordon Bennett cancelled

Lifted directly from Aunty Monkey and a post by Kiff

I could be overdoing this claim but hopefully it has grabbed your attention and a eye catching banner is very important in journalism.

The scoop is that having driven accross France to watch the launch of the 21 Gordon Bennett gas balloon race - I have just returned from the field leaving behind a shocked gaggle of gas balloonist who were coming to terms with the cancelation of the event due to lack of ATC clearance.

The shame of it all was that the balloons where inflated, packed and ready to go with the weather perfect and a ideal flight trajectory taking them all towards Poland.

I won't speculate as to the issues but it was highly discernible the disappointment amongst the organisers, pilots and crews who had worked so hard. My heart really goes out to them.

I am sure there will be some hard drinking in Brussels tonight

On a personal note - I must say I was thrilled to watch the set up and inflation of these majestic aircraft - it was also wonderful to meet up with Petra again after many years. She gave me a crew pass so I could wander the launch field and take some photo's. Hope you like them I'm off the Chateau d'Oex to try to catch a gas balloon flight over the Alps - Hopefully I may have better luck A Bientot - Kiff

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Help find Steve Fossett 2

Seems like it is for real and a very good idea, each user is presented with one image to review. All using something called amazon mechanical turk, no doubt something a stack of balloonists are about to learn about.

More upto date images for google earth

Happy hunting, would be amazing if this overtook the work of several aircraft and high tech equipment.

Spread the word amongst your ballooning friends.


Help find Steve Fosset

I guess this is worth a try if the images truely are recent. Click through the links to start looking!!

An anonymous reader invites us to join in the hunt for the missing Steve Fossett using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. DigitalGlobe, one of Google's imaging partners, has acquired new high-resolution satellite imagery of the area where Fossett disappeared on Monday. The public can now go through this imagery and quickly flag any images that might contain Fossett's plane. Flagged images will receive further review by search and rescue experts.

Risk-takers such as aviator Steve Fossett intrigue psychologists who study them

The Associated Press

Published: September 8, 2007

What prompts climbers to return to the mountains after losing toes to frostbite and partners to fatal falls? What prompts daredevil Alain Robert, the self-proclaimed "Spiderman," to scale scores of the world's tallest structures with bare hands and no safety net?

"When you get to the very bottom of people who take risks, it's the thrill of it," said Temple University psychologist Frank Farley. "It can be a physical thrill, it can be a mental thrill, or it can be both."

While the search for Fossett and his missing plane continues, friends and colleagues have described him as a careful planner who meticulously prepared his adventures — whether by balloon, glider or sailboat — to minimize danger. Some have insisted "daredevil" is a misnomer for him, even as he was hatching plans to break the world's land speed record.

But Michael Dunn, whose friendship with Fossett dates back to an early 1980s climbing expedition in Antarctica, described him as "the quintessential adventurer" and said risk was always part of the equation.

"You fully understand that there's a possibility that you might not come out of this," said Dunn, who was at the Minden, Nevada, airport where the search for Fossett was being run.

"Is the risk worth the reward? In my opinion it isn't even a question," he said. "You have to be willing to risk the possibility of failure."

Farley is a past president of the American Psychological Association who has extensively studied risk-taking. He says it is an aspect of human nature with both positive and negative sides. For example, he said a significant amount of crime is motivated by thrill-seeking impulses.

"But Steve Fossett was on the constructive side," Farley said. "He embodies an incredibly important spirit in humanity."

"Often the people who are not the thrill seekers look at that behavior and say, 'They're crazy,'" Farley added. "In fact, it's the impulse that created the modern world — it's the force of inventiveness, creativity, individuality, change and survival."

Farley says researchers who categorize people as Type A or Type B personalities should add a third category — Type T — for thrill-seekers.

Many psychologists have linked contemporary risk-taking to patterns of social change. Those who perceive today's world as too predictable and safe may be tempted to seek an outlet in the form of extreme sports such as parachuting off cliffs or snowmobiling on avalanche-prone mountainsides.

Others take risks in a quest to set records — to be the youngest, oldest or first of a certain category to accomplish a particular feat, such as circumnavigating the globe alone.

"In our modern world, we've eliminated a lot of risks and threats that our ancestors faced," said Daniel Kruger, a research scientist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. "People might seek these thrills because their current environment is so safe it's not giving them the same stimulation."

For some of these risk-takers, there can be an almost addictive reaction, Kruger said. "Because they're continually seeking the thrill that they felt before, they need to do more and more to recapture that same sensation."

Both Kruger and Farley suggested that risk-taking, in its positive form, can correlate with business and financial success.

For Fossett, who funded his adventures with a fortune amassed as a commodities broker, success was a matter of personal achievement, not of publicity and fame, according to Dunn.

"He's a very low-key, understated person who does the things that he likes to do for the passion of it," Dunn said.

Recalling a talk with Fossett about adventuring, Dunn summarized his friend's attitude: "If you do these kinds of things and you do them well, it's the same sort of philosophy you need to succeed in business or to succeed in life or to succeed in marriage or to succeed in anything, because you have the tenacity and you have the focus and you have the direction to do that."


Associated Press writer Brendan Riley in Minden, Nevada, contributed to this report.

Hunt for adventurer Steve Fossett enters sixth day

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The search for missing adventurer Steve Fossett entered a sixth day on Saturday with searchers still no closer to unraveling the mystery of the millionaire aviator's fate.

A first wave of aircraft took off from Minden Air Base in northwestern Nevada around 8:00 am (1500 GMT).

Later Saturday a total of 45 planes and helicopters, including around a dozen of volunteer pilots in private aircraft, were patrolling the region, rescue officials said.

"Anything reasonable that we can add is probably going to make a difference, but we won't know that until we find our target," Civil Air Patrol Major Cynthia Ryan told reporters on Saturday.

Fossett, the 63-year-old veteran of numerous world record-breaking plane and balloon flights, has not been heard from since Monday, when he failed to return after taking off from a private airstrip 80 miles (130 km) southeast of Reno, Nevada on a solo flight.

Fossett's failure to file a flight plan has left rescuers scouring a vast 10,000 square mile (25,900 kilometer) expanse of rugged mountain and desert wilderness with no firm idea of where the aviator's plane may be.

"We've said it's like looking for a needle in a haystack and that's exactly what it's like," said Nevada State Police spokesman Chuck Allen.

Underscoring the vastness of the area being searched, officials said spotter planes have so far found wreckage from six previously unrecorded crash sites.

Meanwhile, Ryan praised the contribution of volunteer pilots involved in the search. "They did some of their own work based on what Mr Fossett's habits were. They've done an amazing job in the area that they have searched."

Lyon County under sheriff Joe Sanford told reporters on Friday that members of Fossett's family were struggling to maintain their optimism.

"Everyone here is hopeful, but I've got to tell you that they're having a tough time with this," Sanford said.

Fossett has survived numerous near-misses and harrowing crash landings over the years, including a 29,000-foot (9,000-meter) plummet into the Coral Sea off Australia because of a storm-shredded balloon.

Rescuers do not believe Fossett had packed food and water aboard his plane because he had only planned a three-hour flight.

Fossett's single-engine Bellanca aircraft was equipped with an electronic tracking device designed to be triggered in the event of a rough landing, but it has not been activated.

Fossett made the first solo nonstop, non-refueled circumnavigation of the world in 67 hours in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. In 2002, he was the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon.

Nine escape injury after hot air balloon hits power lines

16 hours ago

CALGARY (CP) — A hot air balloon was still touching electrical wires when emergency crews arrived, forcing the pilot and eight startled passengers to wait several minutes trapped in the balloon until utility workers could secure the power lines.

There were no injuries after a gust of wind pushed the balloon into the wires next to an open field where the pilot was preparing to land at the end of the flight.

There have been two tragic balloon accidents in Canada this year, including the death of a mother and daughter after a balloon carrying 13 people went up in flames last month shortly after launching in Surrey B.C.

Eleven others were injured in the crash that was flashed around the world when graphic photos and video were posted showing the balloon plummet to earth before crashing in a ball of fire in a busy trailer park.

Two people were badly burned in Manitoba a month ago after a balloon carrying a dozen people crashed and burned.

Transport Canada is now investigating all three incidents.

Hot air balloon hits Calgary powerline

Vancouver Sun


By Sarah Chapman

CALGARY - A hot air balloon ride took an unexpected turn when it collided with a power line on Saturday morning.

Eight passengers and the pilot escaped injury after a gust of wind blew the balloon into the lines near Seton Boulevard in southeast Calgary.

"It was a slow flight then all of a sudden there was a gust of wind," said pilot Dennis Myrthu.

"I think we're very fortunate. I was mostly concerned about the passengers."

Around 8:30 a.m., Myrthu began to land the balloon in a field near a gravel road, but once he neared the ground, the wind picked up and swung the balloon into the lines.

The brightly-coloured canopy became tangled in the lines.

"I've had incidents that I could have done without over the years, but I've never encountered a power line," said the pilot with 30 years' experience.

"But if you're going to hit a power line, this is probably the best case scenario."

CanWest News Service

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fossett survival skills crucial as hunt enters fifth day

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Rescuers were Friday clinging to the hope that Steve Fossett's legendary survival skills would enable the aviator to hold out until he is found as the daunting search for the missing adventurer entered its fifth day.

The 63-year-old veteran of several world record-breaking solo plane and balloon flights has not been heard from since taking off from a private airstrip 80 miles (130 km) southeast of Reno, Nevada, early Monday.

On Thursday officials expanded the area of remote, mountain terrain being searched to 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers), and have said the search for the airman is like "looking for a needle in a haystack."

But despite the difficult nature of the manhunt, which has forced spotter planes to make multiple, painstaking passes over a landscape populated by sharp mountain peaks and jagged, twisting canyons, rescuers remain optimistic Fossett may yet be found alive.

"He's a survivalist," said Nevada State Police spokesman Chuck Allen. "The hopeful scenario is that his plane went down -- either he put it down, or something caused it to go down -- and he survived and is not too badly injured. "The weather has been co-operating -- it's not been too cold at night, not too hot in the daytime. If he's not too immobilized for any reason we're confident he can survive in the elements outside."

Fossett has survived numerous near-misses and harrowing crash landings over the years, including a 29,000-foot (9,000-meter) plummet into the Coral Sea off Australia because of a storm-shredded balloon.

Allen said rescuers did not believe Fossett had packed food and water on board his plane because he had only been planning a three-hour flight. However there were several natural water sources in the area being searched, he said.

"There are a number of mountain lakes when you get up into the Sierras, dozens of lakes, streams and creeks," he said.

On Thursday, Nevada Civil Air Patrol spokeswoman Major Cynthia Ryan warned it could be weeks before Fossett is found.

"Searches of this nature -- typically, they can go on for as long as two weeks and longer," Ryan said. "We are still scratching the surface."

Asked if rescuers believed Fossett could still be found alive, Ryan cited a case where a pilot was found after a hunt lasting several days.

"I think it was three days into the search, they finally found the target and the pilot was still hanging upside down in his harness, and a tree, quite alive," Ryan said.

Fossett's single-engine Bellanca aircraft was equipped with an electronic tracking device designed to be triggered in the event of a rough landing, but it has not been activated.

Fossett made the first solo nonstop, non-refueled circumnavigation of the world in 67 hours in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. In 2002, he was the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Aunty Monkey

Amongst all the sad news relating to Steve Fossett, I thought I would put in a mention for what I consider to be one of the best ballooning resources on the web. Aunty Monkey.

Born out of print version, examples of which are to be found on the site, Aunty Monkey takes a special interest groups to where they should all be, online and communitied up!

You can join and participate in forums and interact with other pilots from around the world. With an added benefit of having a page all for yourself on which you could perhaps promote your ride business or balloon group. Posting your own pictures is also, excuse the ballooning pun, a breeze.

Its top notch and reflects a more sensible view on ballooning. Not taking it as seriously as other places.

Well done Aunty.

Theres a badge link further down this page on the right or you could click Aunty Monkey

Friends Call Missing Aviator Resourceful

Published: September 7, 2007

MINDEN, Nev., Sept. 6 — A few years back, after six friends climbed Granite Peak in Montana, five of them pulled off their helmets to pose for a summit photo. The one who did not, Steve Fossett, told his friends that it was unsafe to remove the helmet, even after the climb was over.

Patrick Arbor, one of Mr. Fossett’s companions on that and many other outdoors adventures, stared at that photo, on his desk in his Chicago office, on Thursday as he wondered where the renowned adventurer might be.

Mr. Fossett, 63, who holds more than 110 aviation, boating and land-speed records, vanished Monday after taking off in a single-engine aerobatic plane for a recreational jaunt in northern Nevada. He was expected back a few hours later at the Flying M Ranch, an aviation resort owned by the hotel magnate William Barron Hilton, but never returned.

“He’s absolutely not a reckless person, he’s a very cautious, methodical person,” said Mr. Arbor, a former Chicago Board of Trade chairman who has known Mr. Fossett for more than 30 years. “I have traveled all over the world with him. I kind of joke that traveling with him is like traveling with a wandering drugstore because he travels with all kinds of antibiotics and such. He takes risks, but not reckless risks.”

Although the aircraft he flew, a blue-and-white Citabria Super Decathlon, is an aerobatic plane, friends said Mr. Fossett did not enjoy doing airplane tricks and was most likely scouting dry lake beds in the high desert region where he might try to break the land-speed record in a race car sometime in 2008.

An exhaustive air and land search for Mr. Fossett continued Thursday involving more than a dozen aircraft and more than 200 volunteers.

Gary Derks, a spokesman for the Nevada Emergency Management Division, said such searches can go on for weeks, recalling one three years ago that took more than a month before rescue crews gave up. Neither the crash victims nor their wreckage were ever found, he said.

Mr. Arbor said that he spoke Wednesday to Mr. Fossett’s wife, Peggy, who is helping direct the search from the Flying M Ranch. Mrs. Fossett, who “seemed composed until the end of our conversation,” was displeased with the search on Tuesday when high winds cut short some parts of the mission, but “felt on Wednesday it was going much better,” Mr. Arbor said. The Fossetts, married more than 39 years, have no children.

In addition to planes with infrared detection capable of searching at night and boats prowling nearby Walker Lake with sonar, a plane from the Utah Wing of the Civil Air Patrol arrived Wednesday with equipment capable of collecting hyperspectral and panchromatic images far more detailed than plain sight or ordinary photography can gather.

Rick Cronk, a friend of Mr. Fossett’s and president of the Boy Scouts of America, said it was discouraging that there had been no contact despite word that Mr. Fossett had a watch with global positioning capabilities and a plane with an electronic beacon. Mr. Fossett, chairman of the National Eagle Scouts Association, is “among the most resourceful people I know,” he said.

“He knows what to do,” Mr. Cronk said. “You don’t move. You stay put so people can find you. You draw attention to yourself by setting a fire or drawing straight lines in the desert, doing something man-made. You have to be creative.”

Fossett case puzzles local glider pilot

The Marlborough Express | Thursday, 6 September 2007

Marlborough glider pilot Ray Lynskey says the most puzzling thing about the disappearance of multimillionaire American adventurer Steve Fossett in the Nevada desert is that he hasn't phoned a plane.

Mr Lynskey and a group of New Zealand glider pilots got to know Mr Fossett during the past five years when they have all gathered in the Nevada desert to fly.

The Waihopai Valley resident said this morning that he and other glider pilots think it's strange that Mr Fossett has been unable to call out on the channels used by airlines.

"It's something most of us have done when we've got into trouble and are out of cellphone range.

"It's surprising he hasn't been able to do that."

Mr Fossett has been missing since Tuesday and searchers are focusing on a 1554-sq-km area south of the airstrip used by Fossett about 128 km southeast of Reno, Nevada. The 63-year-old was reported missing after failing to return from a flight inspecting dry desert lake beds.

He is famous for flying solo around the world by balloon and plane and has set 115 world records in balloons, planes, sailboats, gliders and airships.

Mr Lynskey has not flown in a glider with the American adventurer but is part of a group of New Zealanders including Christchurch glider pilot Terry Delore who know Mr Fossett well.

Mr Delore has flown double seater planes with Mr Fossett and is credited with saving his life in 2004 when Mr Fosset became unconscious and had to be taken down to a lower altitude to recover.

Mr Lynskey said Mr Fossett was a "good guy" who was quite reserved but seemed to enjoy the company of Kiwis.

"The Americans may concentrate on the money thing but we couldn't give a stuff. He's a good guy who's flown a wide variety of aircraft. He's not a pretender.

"He's swum the English channel and taken part in the Leadville 100, which is a 100 mile run in Aspen Colorado. That's a bit of a slog (at altitude).

"I would say he's fairly reserved for a start. But he drinks beer the same as we do."

Mr Lynskey said any comment on what had happened to Mr Fossett would be pure speculation at this state.

"But maybe he's just waiting for someone to pick him up.

"It's a hell of a long walk to get anywhere near where he is."

No adventure out of bounds for Steve Fossett


By Robert Philip
Last Updated: 1:37am BST 07/09/2007

Have your say Read comments

No matter where he pitches up on the globe, Steve Fossett has always managed to phone home.

Nothing out of bounds for adventurer Steve Fossett

Intrepid: Steve Fossett's life has become one long adventure

With the aid of his satellite mobile, Fossett has rung his long-suffering wife of 39 years, Peggy, from Bournemouth, having just completed the first solo non-stop flight around the world…from Tanzania where he had climbed Kilimanjaro…from a Royal Australian Air Force rescue helicopter which had lifted him to safety from the Coral Sea where sharks and saltwater crocodiles were queuing up for lunch…from Boston where he had run the marathon…from Le Mans where he had completed the 24-hour car race…from Calais where he had swum the English Channel…from the frozen wastes of Alaska where he was competing in a 1,165-mile dog-sled race…from every remote outpost you can think of where they stage ballooning, 'iron man' triathlons, cross-country skiing marathons or whatever.

Alarmingly for his family and friends, such as Sir Richard Branson who describes his close pal as "the world's greatest living adventurer", not a word has been heard from Fossett since his private plane went missing over the Nevada desert on Monday. Having set 116 world records or 'firsts' in the air and on water, he was looking for a suitable stretch of land on which to challenge the world land-speed record.

Part Christopher Columbus, part Charles Lindbergh and part Phileas Fogg - the 63-year-old Chicago billionaire financier was the first man to circumnavigate the world single-handedly in a balloon - I last interviewed Fossett during a brief lull in his activities in 2000 when he told me: "There is still something very, very romantic about going round the world, either by plane, boat or balloon - and I am very much a romantic."

Perhaps it was his failure to win a place on his school swimming or cross-country teams that explains his craving to test the outer limits of human endeavour.

"As a boy, I always read biographies of the great adventurers. I kind of grew up on National Geographic with its accounts of fantastic adventures.

"Maybe that's why I climbed my first mountain at the age of 11. My own adventures have gradually taken over my life. This is what primarily I do, much more so than business."

For Fossett, life has become one, long adventure. As Branson told one interviewer: "If there's an ocean to swim, Steve will choose Christmas Day; it must be snowing and, if possible, the only day in the decade when the water ices over. I'm somebody who loves having people around, whereas Steve is generally a loner. He seems to me to be half Forrest Gump, half android. He is, I suspect at the most, only half-human. Or maybe that should be super-human."

Given such unimaginable wealth, most men would probably buy an English Premier League club, instal themselves in a luxury box, crack open the Dom Perignon, and settle back in a throne to be entertained by your underlings. Then again, most men of Fossett's age think a Saga holiday to Majorca is a bit of a thrill. "It's far more interesting to do these adventures for yourself rather than be an outside spectator," he says. "I'm in the very fortunate position to be able to do these things and I suspect many people would like to be in my shoes."

But what very, very uncomfortable shoes they have been; take Fossett's fourth round-the-world balloon attempt in 1998 when at the 15,000-mile mark, Solo Spirit ruptured and caught fire during a violent thunderstorm five miles high, plunging into the Coral Sea near the Solomon Islands, where he spent 20 hours under the twin threat of shark and crocodile attack.

"I spotted a line of thunderstorms and thought I had sufficient altitude to go over the top of them. Unfortunately, I got drawn into one and these tremendous sheets of hail started flooding me. When the balloon burst, so to speak, my first reaction was disappointment that I had failed again, but then, as I continued my descent, I realised I was more concerned about simply staying alive."

Somehow, Fossett remained sufficiently composed to jettison the fuel tanks in the final seconds before hitting the water, but describes his rate of descent as "exceeding what was believed to be survivable. I could and should have been killed. But my entire business career was a high-pressure occupation trading on the floor of exchanges and that background served me very well. Even when under a great deal of pressure, as I was when my balloon was hurtling towards the sea, I still managed to work out the problem methodically. If I hadn't kept my head, I would not have survived, I guess it's as simple as that".

So exactly what makes a man put his life on the line time after time after time? "I've climbed well over 300 mountains and I've never gotten tired of the sense of achievement upon getting to the top of any mountain, be that Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica, or a self-perceived mountain on water or in the air. Each mountain I take on, or each record I achieve, gives me an immense amount of satisfaction."

Not every mountain has been conquered. One Everest expedition had to be aborted, Colonel Gaddafi scuppered Fossett's third round-the-world balloon attempt when he refused to allow our hero to land in Libya to refuel, and he almost came a cropper on his cross-Channel swim when the tide changed and he staggered ashore about 22-plus hours later and was promptly whisked off to hospital suffering from hypothermia.

Only the final frontier remains to be conquered. "I have no ideas about how to approach getting into space, but I do have other plans in aviation which will keep me busy for years to come. I don't really like to talk about my future challenges, but what I can tell you is that I'll continue to be involved in such adventures for the rest of my life."

Let us pray that Steve Fossett will be involved in many more such adventures.

Rescuers widen hunt for Fossett


Mr Fossett has not been heard from since Monday evening
Teams hunting for missing US adventurer Steve Fossett have widened their search to cover 10,000 sq miles (25,900 sq km) of desert in Nevada and California.

US Civil Air Patrol spokeswoman Major Cynthia Ryan has warned that finding Mr Fossett could take weeks not days.

"Four days into it, we are still scratching the surface," she said.

Rescuers are using thermal imaging so they can scour the remote mountain terrain where Mr Fossett's plane went missing on Monday both day and night.

See a map of the area

There has been no word from Mr Fossett since the 63-year-old was seen taking off from a private airfield near Yerington, Nevada, about 80 miles (130km) south-east of Reno.

"As you can imagine, trying to make that needle stand out in a haystack that big is going to be a real challenge," Maj Ryan said.

"It's going to be frustrating for a lot of people who were hoping for results early on," she added, saying that typically searches of this nature "can go on for as long as two weeks and longer".

It's extremely worrying that it's lasted three days

Emergency workers are also using sonar to search for possible wreckage in Walker Lake, an 18 mile-long body of water south-east of the ranch where Mr Fossett took off from.

Nevada state police spokesman Chuck Allen was keen to emphasise that the authorities had not received any information indicating that Mr Fossett had crashed into the lake.

However, he said that a boat with sonar equipment that can detect large and fixed objects beneath the surface of the water was being used "if only to rule it out".

Treacherous winds

Mr Fossett's family reported him missing after he failed to return from a trip which should have lasted just a few hours.

Adam Mayberry, a local pilot and former spokesman for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, suggested Mr Fossett's single-engine Citabria may have been hit by treacherous winds.

"There's been times when I've been flying in the wind and my blood turns cold," Mr Mayberry said.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who has partnered Mr Fossett on earlier record-breaking attempts, said the lack of news was worrying.

"He's the number one gliding pilot in the world, as well as the number one aviator in the world... If anybody could have glided [this plane] down, it would have been him," he said.

"But obviously, it's extremely worrying that it's lasted three days.

"If the worst comes to the worst... Steve's lived his life to the full, and he hasn't wasted a minute of his life," he added.

Mr Fossett did not file a flight plan with the aviation authorities before taking off because he was not required to do so.

The only clue to his whereabouts is that he was intending to fly south.

It is also understood Mr Fossett had some communication equipment with him, including a special emergency watch which he could have used to signal his position.


Mr Fossett made his fortune in the American financial services industry.

But he is best known for the impressive number of world records he has broken as a pilot, balloonist and sailor.

He has set 116 records in five different sports, more than 60 of which remain unbroken.

Last year Mr Fossett broke the world record for flying further than anyone else in history.

In March 2005, he became the first person to fly a plane solo around the world without refuelling.

And in 2002 he was the first person to fly a balloon around the world solo.

Micro Balloon flying in USA

See if you can find what I mean.

Hot-air balloon pilot improvises landing
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 09/07/2007 02:58:26 AM EDT

Friday, September 07
GREAT BARRINGTON — A hot-air balloon pilot who missed his landing spot at the Chesterwood museum off Route 183 found a safe spot on a grassy patch just north of the Monument Mills complex in Housatonic.
There was a fluster of worry and surprise at first among local residents, who hurried outdoors Wednesday evening to see the descending multicolored craft and heard its dragonlike blasts of gas, but the balloon was in no danger, according to the pilot and his flight instructor.

Tim Taylor of Lee, a retired Navy commander who is pursuing a balloon pilot certificate, landed safely alongside Route 183 next to the Housatonic River, with some radio guidance from instructor Paul Sera of Worthington.

Sera had already landed his own balloon at Chesterwood, about a mile to the north, and was communicating with Taylor by radio as Taylor's "chase car" followed Route 183 along the river.

"This was just 'ballooning 101,' " said Sera, who had set off with Taylor from Richmond for the evening flight on a breeze that would bring them to the Stockbridge landing spot.

A historic landing spot

Sera said both balloons were aiming for the open spot at

Chesterwood, the historic home of sculptor Daniel Chester French. Sera made his landing, but Taylor missed the open area by about 100 feet and had to keep flying with the wind. But night was falling, and he needed a landing pad free of trees and telephone wires.
Sera, familiar with the area, knew the breeze would draw the balloon into the Housatonic River path, a gully on the back side of Monument Mountain. He also knew of the grassy patch by the mill and advised Taylor to keep a lookout.

When he got there, Taylor dropped a 200-foot rope from his basket to his ground crew, and they pulled his balloon gently to the ground.

Around 8:30 Wednesday night, Taylor was busy with his chase car crew, rolling up his 65-cubic-foot balloon and packing up the basket that had been carrying him. He was none the worse for the adventure — aside from a filmy sweat on his brow — as he packed his balloon into a trailer waiting on the street.

Sera said he has done 1,300 balloon flights in 17 years and is licensed as a commercial pilot and instructor. Taylor, his student, has completed his required training and independent flying time and is about to take a test for private pilot certification with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sera also was eager for the chance to plug an event this weekend in Northampton at Look Park, a three-day balloon festival running Friday through Sunday. "Can we eat now?" Taylor interjected to Sera, after his balloon was packed safely away.

To reach Ellen G. Lahr:, (413) 528-3660.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Steve Fosset Google Earth, Wired

As the search for missing adventurer Steve Fossett continues in the torturous desert ravines of Nevada, Reuters reports that his friend Richard Branson has contacted Google to see if the latest Google Earth satellite images contain clues to his whereabouts.

I'm embarrassed to admit that, until yesterday, I knew little else about Steve Fossett than his name. But the flood of articles and concern that have accompanied his disappearance testify to his prominence in the American mind -- and looking at his life, it's not hard to see why. Fossett is a manifestation of the American dream: he struck it rich and then used his wealth to support adventures that recall the devil-may-care gallantry of a century ago, when technological advances sent pilots at then-superhuman speeds across oceans and skies and horizons that still seemed vast and mysterious.

When Fossett's plane went down, he was scouting possible sites for the pursuit of a world land-speed record. The locale and the quest recall another mogul-turned-adventurer, Howard Hughes, and the outpouring of support echoes some of the sentiments described in The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe's account of the Mercury astronauts: an ancient, transcendent adulation for the warrior who goes into single combat as a representative of his people, and in the modern age is a daredevil or explorer rather than a fighter.

In a sense it seems strange to emphasize Fosset's plight in a world full of suffering, but in another sense it's a profoundly human impulse, for he's at once a person and a symbol of our eternal quest to push the envelope of speed and time. Good luck, Steve.

Ah the joke

I wonder if this is the start of yet another rash of appearances for this joke!

A lot of hot true!

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am." The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between
59 and 60 degrees west longitude." "You must be in Information Technology," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?" "Well," answered the balloonist, everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip." The woman below responded, "You must be in Management." "I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know that?" "Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault!

Fossett May Have Faced Tricky Winds


MINDEN, Nev. (AP) — Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett vanished somewhere across a landscape of soaring peaks and sagebrush desert notorious for winds so powerful and tricky they can swirl an airplane like a leaf and even shear off a wing.

As the search for Fossett dragged into a second day Wednesday with some false leads but no sign of the 63-year-old aviator or his plane, some veteran pilots speculated he may have fallen victim to the treacherous and sometimes deadly Sierra Nevada winds that squeeze through the narrow canyons.

"There's been times when I've been flying in the wind and my blood turns cold," said Adam Mayberry, a private pilot and former spokesman for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

Fossett, who over the years risked his life circling the globe in a hot-air balloon and an experimental lightweight aircraft, disappeared after taking off from a private airstrip Monday in an ordinary single-engine plane to scout sites for an attempt at a land-speed record in a rocket-propelled car.

Crews from three states searched by air and land over an area the size of Connecticut, marked by rugged mountains jutting to 10,000 feet.

The Nevada National Guard planned to fly throughout Wednesday night and into the early morning hours of Thursday, using C-130s and helicopters with infrared and thermal imaging equipment. The Civil Air Patrol and additional flight crews were scheduled to resume the full search shortly after daybreak Thursday.

Fossett's plane, a Bellanca Citabria Super Decathlon, had a locator device that sends a satellite signal after a rough landing, but no such signal had been received.

Fossett always wears a Breitling Emergency wristwatch that allows pilots to turn a knob and immediately signal their location, said Granger Whitelaw, a fellow pilot and a co-founder of the Rocket Racing League. But no such signal was activated.

Authorities said at one point they thought they had spotted Fossett's plane and sent in a helicopter crew to confirm.

"We thought we had it nailed," Nevada Civil Air Patrol Maj. Cynthia Ryan told reporters late Wednesday. "Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of many dozen unmapped wreck sites from previous years."

Wind gusts in the area can whip up without warning from any direction, with sudden downdrafts that can drag a plane clear to the ground. Passengers flying even on commercial airliners between Las Vegas and Reno know to keep their seat belts fastened for a ride that is never smooth.

Mark Twain wrote about the "Washoe Zephyr" — named for the Nevada county — in the book "Roughing It."

"But, seriously, a Washoe wind is by no means a trifling matter. It blows flimsy houses down, lifts shingle roofs occasionally, rolls up tin ones like sheet music, now and then blows a stagecoach over and spills the passengers," he wrote.

In 1999, three well-known glider pilots were killed in two separate accidents after taking off from the Minden airport.

Donald D. Engen, director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, died along with the former president of a gliding organization after their sailplane broke apart and fell 4,000 feet. And nationally ranked glider pilot Clem Bowman died when his glider plummeted 100 feet shortly after takeoff.

Nevertheless, Ryan said she doubts any sudden wind burst would have caught Fossett by surprise on Monday. The weather report indicates the winds were calm, and it was "just a really delightful day to go flying."

Moreover, "he knows mountain flying, which is an art in and of itself," Ryan said.

And while Fossett is a record-seeker, those who know him said he would not take unnecessary risks.

"He's not that kind of pilot. He's not a cropduster. He never was," said Rick Blakemore, a veteran pilot and former Nevada state senator.

Authorities said the airplane carried food, water and other survival gear, and estimated Fossett could survive at least a week.

"He's the No. 1 gliding pilot in the world, as well as the No. 1 aviator in the world. If anybody could have glided down, it would have been him," Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire who has helped finance many of Fossett's adventures, said in London. "But obviously, it's extremely worrying that it's lasted three days."

Associated Press writers Brendan Riley in Carson City, Nev., Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., Betsy Taylor in St. Louis, Mo., and Romina Spina in London contributed to this report.

High-tech plane used in hunt for adventurer Fossett

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — An aircraft with state-of-the-art imaging technology joined the search for aviator Steve Fossett on Wednesday, two days after a plane flown by the adventurer vanished over a rugged region of Nevada.

A squadron of planes and helicopters resumed operations over a 600-square-mile (155,000-hectare) region of mountain terrain after failing to find any trace of Fossett during searches late Monday and Tuesday.

Fossett -- who has survived numerous brushes with death during a series of record-breaking solo flights around the world by balloon and airplane -- has not been heard from since taking off from a private airstrip early Monday.

Officials have described the task of locating 63-year-old Fossett's possible whereabouts as "like searching for a needle in a haystack."

Rescue planes were boosted by clear skies and calm flying conditions on Wednesday after being buffeted by turbulence during searches earlier this week.

Major Cynthia Ryan of the Civil Air Patrol revealed that high-tech hyperspectral imaging equipment known as ARCHER, which is capable of distinguishing between objects on the ground, had also been deployed.

"ARCHER is essentially something used by the geosciences," Ryan said. "It's pretty sophisticated stuff ... beyond what the human eye can generally see."

Later Wednesday Ryan revealed that rescuers had believed they had found Ryan's plane after spotting wreckage, only to be disappointed when it turned out that the debris was from an old crash site.

"We thought we had it nailed," Ryan said. "Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of many dozen unmapped wreck sites from previous years.

"We sent the helicopters there and they verified it was not Mr Fossett nor his aircraft."

Fossett was reported missing on Monday after he failed to return from a solo flight in a single-engine Bellanca plane following take-off from an airfield owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton.

His aircraft was equipped with an electronic tracking device designed to be activated in the event of a crash but it had not been deployed.

Fossett made the first solo nonstop, non-refueled circumnavigation of the world in 67 hours in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. In 2002, he was the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon.

British tycoon Richard Branson, who partnered Fossett on earlier attempts to circle the globe in a balloon, said he had contacted Internet search giants Google to help with the search.

"I'm talking with friends at Google about seeing whether we can look at satellite images over the last four days to see whether they can see which direction he might have been flying and whether they can see any disturbances anywhere that they can pin from space," Branson told Canadian media.

The British billionaire said although he was concerned at Fossett's failure to activate an emergency tracking beacon, he remained positive.

"(Steve's) not only the greatest aviator in the world, he's also the greatest gliding pilot in the world," Branson said.

"I'm very confident that he would have got the plane down in one piece as long as the terrain below him was desert and not mountainous hills or woods or rocks.

"Having said that, obviously we're worried (about) the fact that there's been no emergency beacon go off. He could be injured, which means the emergency services have just got to get to him as soon as possible."

A multi-millionaire who made his fortune dealing stocks in Chicago, Fossett has spent the past two decades chasing world records and shattering them, sailing, floating and flying faster and farther than anyone before.

In 2006, he touched his aircraft down at an airfield on Britain's south coast, setting the record for the longest solo, non-stop, non-refueled flight in terms of distance.

Fossett has also set dozens of world records in sailboats, gliders and hot-air balloons.

"If you look at the history of adventurers, it is so often the simple things (that cause trouble)," Branson noted.

"Lawrence of Arabia went through everything and was then killed in a motorbike accident when he'd given up all his dangerous pursuits in Arabia. Anyway, I still feel confident that Steve will come back."

False alarm in Fossett search

Rescuers are still combing rugged country for signs of the light plane of Mr Fossett. (Reuters: Rick Fowler )

Concerns are growing for millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett who has been missing in the United States since early on Tuesday.

Rescuers in Nevada are still combing 1,500 square kilometres of rugged country for signs of his light plane.

Hopes were raised when searchers spotted a plane wreck earlier today, but Major Cynthia Ryan from Nevada's Civil Air Patrol says it was not the aircraft of Mr Fossett.

"We thought we had it nailed. Unfortunately it turned out to be one of many dozens unmapped wreck sites from previous years," she said.

"We found that out by sending in a helicopter and they put a man on the ground and verified that it was not the target that we were looking for, it was not Mr Fossett or his aircraft."

Local launched Fossett’s first balloon

Gypsum man says he’s confident that Beaver Creek adventurer will be OK

Edward Stoner
Vail, CO Colorado
September 5, 2007

GYPSUM — Steve Fossett said he wanted to take a few nice balloon flights.
But his sights were set much higher when he came to Merlin Sagon’s Gypsum-based Camelot Balloons in 1993 to get his certification to fly hot-air balloons.
Fossett, the millionaire adventurer, wanted to fly around the world.

It didn’t take too long for Sagon to figure out that Fossett — by then an experienced sailor, race-car driver and skier — wanted to do more than leisurely outings.

“After knowing what he had done in the past, the pieces came together,” Sagon said.

Fossett, who lives much of the year in Beaver Creek, disappeared Monday after taking off in a single-engine airplane to scout places where he could try to set the land speed record. A massive search of rugged terrain in Nevada and California continued Wednesday.

The reconnaissance trip seems to pale in comparison to the more adventurous endeavors Fossett has undertaken, Sagon said.

“He’s done all kinds of things and cheated death and come back to tell the story,” Sagon said. “(For him, this flight) is like going down to the grocery store to get a jug of milk.”

Sagon said he’s very optimistic that Fossett will be found alive.

In Fossett’s words
From Steve Fossett’s autobiography, “Chasing the Wind”:

“When I got back to Beaver Creek, I started taking balloon pilot training. I contacted Ed Sagon, who goes by the name of Merlin. He was the wizard of hot-air ballooning in the Vail Valley near my home in Beaver Creek. Predictably, he asked why I wanted to get a balloon pilot’s license.

"Thinking it a bit audacious to show up for my first lesson and state that I wanted to make the first balloon flight around the world, I said, ‘I just want to make some nice flights.’ We laugh about that whenever we get together now.

"Over the course of the summer and after 11 flights with Merlin, I had earned my hot-air balloon pilot license.”

“He’s been in some very precarious situations,” Sagon said. “I can’t think of anyone who is more capable of being in a precarious situation than Steve.”

Fossett is hardly a reckless adventurer, Sagon said, calling him “careful” and “methodical.”

In ’93, Sagon and Fossett did 11 balloon flights, and Fossett got his certification. Sagon called him a model student.

“He’s like a sponge,” said Sagon, who has run balloon trips in Eagle County for 19 years. “He picks up on things real fast.”

They stayed in touch over the years as Fossett made attempt after attempt — six in all — to balloon around the world nonstop. Fossett finally did it in 2002.

The bearded, long-haired Sagon — surrounded by balloon baskets in his Gypsum office — flipped through an album of letters from Fossett and clippings about the adventurer’s exploits.

“This was his second attempt, this was his third attempt,” he said, pointing to letters from Fossett.

Sagon even went to Busch Stadium in St. Louis for the 1997 launch of Fossett’s worldwide balloon attempt. Sagon helped Fossett with the take-off.

After several of the unsuccessful worldwide flights, Fossett would have parties at his Beaver Creek home, and Sagon would attend.

“He always wanted to talk about his landing because that was part of his training,” Sagon said. “Of course, I didn’t tell him how to land in the ocean.”

One of Fossett’s unsuccessful attempts included an unexpected landing in shark-infested ocean waters.

Sagon and his pilots run balloon trips just about every day that weather allows. On Wednesday, rain had left them grounded.

The concept behind the balloons is pretty simple as Sagon explains it: more hot air makes them go up, and less hot air makes them go down. The balloons use powerful propane burners.

But there’s no steering wheel, and pilots often have to end up where Mother Nature sends them. Sagon has many places around the valley where he can land, much of owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

For now, Sagon is waiting for good news about Fossett, and is confident that there will be a happy ending.

“He’ll be thirsty and hungry and wondering why it took so long for people to find him,” Sagon said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or