After two weeks, search for Fossett scaled down

Nevada authorities are scaling down the search for United States adventurer Steve Fossett after an intensive two-week effort, officials said on Monday.

”It arrives at the point when the mission has to evolve,” Major Cynthia Ryan of the Nevada civil air patrol told Reuters.

She said her agency, which had more than 20 planes out last week, on Monday had just two looking for Fossett, the first person to pilot a balloon solo around the world in 2002.

”Ninty-eight percent of Nevada has been searched,” Colonel Dion DeCamp, the civil air patrol’s Nevada wing commander, said in a statement.

Search crews were still ready to follow leads on the ground and the National Guard had helicopters available for the search, said Chuck Allen, a spokesperson for the Nevada department of public safety.

He said state and federal officials would meet again on Wednesday to discuss ending the massive effort, which has included dives into a lake, air patrols, and volunteers poring over internet data for clues to the whereabouts of the millionaire aviator.

State agencies had spent $600 000 on the effort as of last weekend, Allen said, excluding what Ryan said was another $12 000 in fuel costs. The search was the largest ever in Nevada, officials said.

Volunteers on the ground and in the air have also given more than 13 000 hours of time to assist the Civil Air Patrol which flew 1 300 hours, officials said.

The search for Fossett, who made a record-setting solo non-stop airplane flight around the world in 2005, attracted an outpouring of volunteer support when he went missing on September 3 after taking off alone in a small plane from a private Nevada airstrip. – Reuters

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