Friday, September 07, 2007

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."

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