An air search is under way for record-breaking adventurer Steve Fossett, who was last seen Monday morning taking off from a private Nevada airstrip in a small, single-engine aircraft, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The 63-year-old, who in 2002 became the first person to complete a solo circumnavigation of the globe by hot air balloon, was reported missing Monday night by a friend, according to the FAA. Fossett had not filed a flight plan for his Monday morning departure.
Fossett departed in a single-engine Citabria Super Decathlon, Civil Air Patrol spokeswoman Maj. Cynthia S. Ryan told the Record-Courier newspaper of Nevada.
Three crews are in the air looking for Fossett's blue and white aircraft above rural western Nevada, Ryan told the newspaper, and more are en route to help in the search. "We will be launching more shortly," Ryan told the newspaper.
Authorities have some idea where Fossett may have been heading, according to the FAA. The search was being coordinated by the Air Force's Rescue Coordination Center in Langley, Va.
Fossett has set a number of aviation records, including the hot air balloon trip in 2002, a 67-hour around-the-world trip without refueling on the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer in 2005 and the world glider altitude record, which he set with a co-pilot more than 50,000 feet above the Andes Mountains. In July, Fossett's flight accomplishments earned him a place in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
"I'm hoping you didn't give me this award because you think my career is complete, because I'm not done," Fossett said at the July induction ceremony in San Diego, Calif., adding that he would be in Argentina in November to try to break another glider record.
Fossett, who has also broken more than 20 speed sailing records, also was reportedly in Nevada in August working on a jet racer to try to break the world land speed record.
Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, which has sponsored some of Fossett's record-breaking attempts, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon about the adventurer's disappearance.
"Steve is a tough old boot," Branson said in the statement. "I suspect he is waiting by his plane right now for someone to pick him up."
Branson acknowledged that the ranch airpstrip from which Fossett took off is located in a vast landscape, but said his friend has overcome more substantial challenges than surviving in the wilderness.
"Based on his track record, I feel confident we'll get some good news soon," Branson said.