Thursday, September 06, 2007
Joining the search for Fossett
I have been flying now for about 10 hours over two days from the upper peninsula of Michigan to Minden, Nevada. I was in Michigan with my small airplane shooting a story on the Great Lakes when I got word that Steve Fossett had gone missing.

I could have flown commercially on this long journey, but I wanted to help join the search if I could. Along the way, I encountered some thunderstorms over the Rockies, which made me think long and hard about the risks. I am a novice mountain pilot -- brought an oxygen bottle along the way so that I can fly high enough to clear the "cumulous-granite" -- and as such decided the better part of valor was to overnight in Casper, Wyoming.

Back in 1998, Steve Fossett flew his balloon into a hellacious thunderstorm over the Coral Sea and wound up in the drink. He toyed with the notion of quitting his effort to circle the globe alone in a balloon. But of course his hesitation faded and he eventually succeeded.

Fossett is not a daredevil. He takes carefully calculated, thoroughly-planned risks. But taking big risks and living to tell the tale can be an insidious trap for humans. The mind plays tricks on us if we let it -- falsely telling us our previous good fortune is proof the odds are better than they really are. It is the same mental trap that led NASA to doom two space shuttle crews. Fossett is not the kind of guy to fall into this trap, so it seems likely whatever happened to him was beyond his control. But sometimes the odds catch up with us.

Flying over this big desert west of the Rockies (much less this big beautiful country of ours) reminds me how hard the task is for those searching for Fossett. His plane was equipped with a radio locator beacon and he wears a Breitling watch with similar capability. But so far nothing. I am listening now to the frequency that it broadcasts on -- with a whooping noise -- and it is silent. So the search continues.

-- By Miles O'Brien, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 6:17 PM ET
  50 Comments
Miles,
I couldn't have said it better myself!! You keep playing with fire and you are sure to get burned!!

I hope that Steve Fossett is found safe and sound...but as every day passes so does hopes of finding him.

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Cindy : 6:35 PM ET
Flying private plane, Miles? Wha happened to the Planet being in Peril?! Both you and Fossett burning fuel, creating "carbon pollution", for what? ... in his case, to compensate for something, in your case ... don't know . Let the professional rescue workers do their job and you do yours.
Posted By ronnie, knoxville, tn. : 7:00 PM ET
Our thoughts and prayers are with Steve Fossett and hope he is found soon. He is to be admired; he is living life to the fullest and taking advantage of all this planet has to offer.

Stay safe as you search for him and hopefully everyone will return home safely along with Mr Fossett and this news story will have a happy ending.

BTW, what is the cumulous-granite?
Posted By Christina, Windber, PA : 7:02 PM ET
Sometimes doing the things we love involve risk. It's either that or stop living. I hope and pray that Mr. Fossett will be found. No matter what happens, I admire him for living his life with so much courage and gusto.

Thanks,
Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, WA : 7:19 PM ET
Good for you Miles. It doesn't matter who's missing. He's a humanbeing and this is what we do. We help. I hope he is found soon.
Posted By Jeannie, Seattle : 7:21 PM ET
Thank you for this blog, Miles. I lost my brother in a small plane built by his own hands---a beautiful Harmon Rocket II---in July of 2005 near the coast of California. He, like Steve Fossett, was a hero-adventurer. Neither of them earthbound, happier in the air than anywhere. I take comfort that my brother lived life so fully. I pray that they find Steve, but if he didn't make it, may his family find solace that he was so very alive while here.
Posted By Karen Anderson Blumenthal : 7:27 PM ET
Miles is doing the same thing Steve Fosset does..Challenging himself to improve himself. As a retired Naval Aircrewman with more than 7000 hours, many in hostile skies, and a private pilot I say "God bless the few remaining pioneers in our soft society like Steve Fosset." If all the hand wringing social do-gooders like Ronnie had their way, we'd all be carted around in padded strollers with helments by our "Nanny" Government! By the way Ronnie, have you sold your car and walk everywhere to prevent a carbon footprint? I wonder if climate change is man-made, what happened to the seven mile deep glacier that used to sit where my house is in Maine?
Posted By Marvin, Litchfield, Me. : 7:29 PM ET
Cumulous-granite refers to the granite of the Rocky Mountains that is often obscured by cumulous cloads (the big puffy ones that thunderstorms come from). Not only are thunderstorms dangerous to airplanes, but the clouds can obscure the mountains and cause pilots to fly right into a 10,000 foot mountain without any warning.

I admire Steve Mossett for trying to live his dreams, I can't think of anything more admirable.

I'm glad to see that Miles is using his airplane to try and save a human life. I would certainly drive my car around the city to find a missing friend or loved one.
Posted By Jeff, Tucson, AZ : 7:30 PM ET
Miles,

Good Luck and Gods speed.

Graeme, Ottawa, ON
Posted By Anonymous : 7:31 PM ET
Cynthia, how does making a routine flight over routine territory equate to "playing with fire"? Do you play with fire every time you drive to work?

And Ronnie, as a "professional rescue worker" (I am a Civil Air Patrol SAR Pilot out of New England), I admire the help that Miles O'Brien is providing. There is a lot of territory to cover, and too few search planes to do it quickly. Should civilians have stayed home during Katrina when they were out there searching for survivors?

But I agree, unless there is some fluke that 5 transmitters Fossett had (assuming two built-in radios, a handheld backup, and two ELTs) failed, this doesn't bode well for him...
Posted By Anonymous : 7:31 PM ET
Ronnie - How rude! I don't often feel compelled to comment on blogs, but for heaven's sake a man may be hurt, or worse yet, dead. Your only reaction is to vent your frustration in a situation where it is certainly not warranted or needed.

May others thoughts and prayers help "fuel" the search for Mr. Fossett.
Posted By Anonymous : 7:37 PM ET
Miles, you are a brave and considerate person helping in this search. Thank you.
Posted By Missy, Fairfield, CT : 7:38 PM ET
Anyone who wonders why someone his/herself would want to join in the search has never themselves piloted an aircraft. We, after so very many years of being dependent on refined fuel for our travel needs, cannot totally and suddenly stop. Steve Fossett is about living life. One could easily argue that he is a rare and dying breed. Those who would deny any efforts to find him by any and all means couldn't possibly understand what dreams can bring to this world.
Posted By Anonymous : 7:39 PM ET
To address the comments of a previous poster. If the rest of strived to achieve half of what Fossett and O'Brien have done in their lives, rather than point fingers, we probably wouldn't have a "carbon emission" problem to worry about.

Keep up the search, and hopefully others join in, rather than depending on someone else to do the job.
Posted By Gary : 7:42 PM ET
Thanks for thinking better than to fly into, over, or around that thunderstorm. We had one blow through the other day and those things aren't to be messed with on the ground let alone in the air. It's a long way down.

I hope Steve Fossett is found safe even if there have been times when I thought his attempts to break the various records were a bit on the foolish side.

Good luck to you and all those searching for Steve and may his family be comforted while the search continues.
Posted By J. Michael : 7:44 PM ET
For those of us aviation buffs, Steve Fossett is our modern day hero. It has been fantastic watching his achievements in my lifetime. So like most of us aviation buffs, we are very distraught over him being missing. As Miles said, he did only take careful, measured risks. Monday's outing should have been a short low-risk trip. I am hoping for the best, though.

Cumulous-granite is codeword for mountains.
Posted By dan, Centerville, VA : 7:45 PM ET
Steve Fossett was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in July. He told the crowd gathered at Dayton Cov. Center that he would continue flying.


"I'm hoping that you didn't give me this award because you think my career is complete, because I'm not done."
Posted By Steve - Peoria, IL : 7:54 PM ET
Mountain flying produces unpredictable challenges even for the most experienced pilots.
Let us keep all those pilots/crews involved in this ongoing search and rescue mission in our prayers. They are placing themselves in danger everytime they are airborne.

Kelvin Orlando, Florida
Posted By Anonymous : 7:55 PM ET
I am a little curious why someone as well "traveled" as Mr. Fossett was not flying an aircraft with the most state-of-the-art satellite communication gear for SAR (search and rescue)? Sat phones are a $1000 with monthly access down to $29/month, and a reliable PELB (personal emergency locator beacon) are around $700.
People that fly out here in the southwest know how important relible communication is, and I don't mean cell phones...which might save your life.
I hope he is found safe and sound.
Posted By Anonymous : 7:57 PM ET
What an amazing man. I hope and pray he will show up soon, like the portrayal of Chuck Yeager walking toward the camera with the black smoke swirling when he breaks the speed record.
Posted By Spencer Dwight, Oshkosh, WI : 7:59 PM ET
"Cumulous-granite" means the cloud-shrouded top of a mountain.

-Marianne
Posted By Anonymous : 8:00 PM ET
With all his accomplishments and expeditions, I have high hopes he will make it. If anyone can, Steve Fossett can.
Posted By Pierce, Denver, Co. : 8:01 PM ET
There's a great book on Fossett entitled Chasing the Wind by William Hasley. He is a master at chasing and succeeding at life's adventures.
Posted By WIlliam W., Chicago Ill. : 8:03 PM ET
Steve has the greatest time in his life-- no pretension, he just loves flying .
Posted By Mike, USAF, Colorado : 8:12 PM ET
This is a person who lives life to the fullest. I admire his sense of adventure. I admire courage.
Posted By Adam A., San Diego, CA : 8:17 PM ET
Ronnie,

Who do you think most of the searchers are? They're not professionals. They're mostly volunteers who, like Miles, have access to an airplane.

-Brian
Posted By Anonymous : 8:19 PM ET
Hi Miles,
I guess there always will be people who push the envelope in life. The trail blazers, the explorer who goes where no one else will go.
We owe them a lot for all the rewards that we get from the risks they take. I hope Steve Fossett is alive and well. We need him to keep blazing those trails...My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 8:23 PM ET
I'm sorry for his loved ones this man is lost, but it was a risk he knowlingly took being a daredevil. How is this headline news? If he wasn't wealthy or a big name or staying with a Hilton, would Miles being wasting money flying a private jet to find the guy for a CNN story? Get real with the priorities. For the last three days I've been trying to contact a friend in Honduras and finally heard from her today. Countless extrememly poor people in Central America lost homes, sources of incomes, and lives this week. Yet, I haven't heard very much on 360 since the storm hit. I guess poor Central Americans who are part of the global family aren't as important as rich pilots, sex cruising Congressmen, and the nightly Anderson/Erica routine. In New Orleans, at least FEMA gave thousand dollar checks. In Central America, many don't even have the hope of that sort of money coming to them individually from any source. I really have to wonder about the agenda of this show some nights. Then again, with segments like these on Fossett, what matters most to this network is all too clear.
Posted By Tammy C., Berwick, LA : 8:27 PM ET
I didn't realize that Steve Fossett also is one of the world's most accomplished sailors! He's like a real-life James Bond. Hopefully, he'll survive this latest adventure the way Bond always does.
Posted By Jay Moran, Des Moines, Ia. : 8:33 PM ET
We know you can make it, Steve. This is a piece of cake for you ! God Bless
Posted By Teri C.- Montgomery AL : 8:36 PM ET
So typical. You share that you are helping in the search to save someone's life and you are rebuked for doing so by someone because you are flying. Good for you for doing so, if I had a plane I would. Let those worried about their carbon footprint put their words to deed and start walking across the desert to look for him.
Posted By Rick : 8:36 PM ET
To Ronnie in TN, and anyone else who thinks flying should only be reserved "for the professionals": Welcome to the United States of America! I hope you will enjoy the many freedoms we have to offer here, including the right to pursue happiness. There is no joy like the joy of flight. Don't you remember dreaming about it when you were young, before you became so cynical? Yes, there is risk, but there is risk in driving, walking across the street, riding a bike, and everything aside from living in a bubble. I thank God we live in a country where we are free to pursue our dreams rather than being subject to the fears of others. I'd rather live 30 years like Steve Fossett than 80 years in a bubble.
Posted By A pilot : 8:37 PM ET
Ronnie in Knoxville, I do believe that Miles assisting in the search for Steve Fossett is a sincere and noble thing, especially considering Miles is putting himself in jeopardy in the process. It's easy to critisize while reclining on the couch. Let me guess, you ride a bike everywhere you go right? Good luck Miles in finding Steve safe and sound.
Posted By Rick in Modesto, CA : 8:41 PM ET
Ronnie in Knoxville, I do believe that Miles assisting in the search for Steve Fossett is a sincere and noble thing, especially considering Miles is putting himself in jeopardy in the process. It's easy to critisize while reclining on the couch. Let me guess, you ride a bike everywhere you go right? Good luck Miles in finding Steve safe and sound.
Posted By Rick in Modesto, CA : 8:42 PM ET
Miles, how thoughtful of you to fly so far to help a fellow pilot. I imagine you thought many times during your journey-that could have been me. Good luck to you and I hope the search ends well.
Posted By Jess, Paris, KY : 8:43 PM ET
Hope Mr. Fossett is found safe and unhurt and perhaps he will walk out as he has done before. But it is worrisome that he did not deploy the beacon to help in finding him, terribly worrisome.

You stay safe and don't take any chances you shouldn't in your plane. Its nice to hear an account from a volunteer to one of these searches.
Posted By Annie Kate, Birmingham AL : 8:55 PM ET
It's ironic that Mr. Fossett was scoping for dry beds in order to attempt to break the land-speed record. May the force be with him and see him home safely.
Posted By L. Lordan Reno Nv. : 10:00 PM ET
I admire people who are daredevils and push the limits because I'm not and I don't. I live vicariously through him whenever I hear about his balloon expeditions.
Posted By Victor A., Yuma, Az. : 10:03 PM ET
I remember Steve Fossett going into this silver mylar contraption, which I believe he flew over the Atlantic. This is a person with guts. I'd like to have him on my side if I was in a any sort of predicament.
Posted By Leese Andrews, Devner, CO. : 10:06 PM ET
The CAP (Civil Air Patrol) has failed in its task to find Mr. Fossett in 3 days. They also failed to find a missing pilot some three weeks ago.

Perhaps we need to rethink who runs search and rescue efforts in this area.

Mr. Fossett was looking for dry lakes. All of these are EAST of the Hilton Ranch, and not SOUTH were the search effort has concentrated. If he ever survived his accident, the chances of him being alive at this point are small due to a poorly thought out search and rescue operation.
Posted By Anonymous : 10:07 PM ET
I 've been looking up stuff on this guy since yesterday and I found an old quote he made after someone asked him about going into space. He said no, he's not a passenger-type of person - he'd want to be the pilot!
God Bless You Steve!
Posted By Delia D. --Baltimore Md : 10:09 PM ET
Does anyone know if Mr. Fossett called in any coordinates at all during the trip? If so, couldn't the rescue workers apply physics to locate him? That would make much more sense than to just hope for the best and search something the size of Vermont.

Just my two cents.

Nina Anne
Posted By Nina Anne Kramer : 2:19 AM ET
I hope that the searchers are using logic to focus the search to areas that contain dry lake beds. As I understand the situation he was looking for BLM land that contained areas with an axis long enough to accommodate a car traveling at the land speed record. To me, I would assume he used earth Google or some other imagery to screen areas prior to taking to the air. Check his computer to see what he was browsing, and use GIS to do a search base including BLM Land and parcels that a long enough for his car to reach maximum speed as criterion. Of course the Basin and Range country of the Sierra Nevada can create some serious issues for aviators, and make finding a wreckage challenging. Hopefully he ditched and is waiting for help. Keep the good vibes flowing his way.

Aloha,

APH
Posted By APH : 4:19 AM ET
Well done Miles. As a pilot, living in a far off country I wish I could help out.
Only thing to do from Africa is hope and pray.
To all the pilots helping search, take care and keep the “wings level”
Fossett is a hero of the skies.

Matthew, Cape Town, South Africa
Posted By Matthew : 4:33 AM ET
As im sure we all can say that we hope Steve Fossett is found safe and well, but I raise the question that Richard Branson being so rich as he is, and such a good friend to Steve, how come he has not offered to fund/help push the search effort?
Posted By Chris, London UK : 4:38 AM ET
There is a lot to say for Ronnies observation, mindsets need to change to preserve this earth.Americans and their freedoms need re-evaluation.There will be no future if every person continues living in their comfort zone.Habits die hard. Freedom at a price.The struggle continues.
Posted By projectorhead : 5:29 AM ET
How newsworhty does CNN consider this nonentity to be? How can a bored millionaire take up the front pages for so long? Frankly, Im disgusted.
Posted By Michael : 5:30 AM ET
Steve Fossett has over 100 records in the Guinness Book in various aviation related and non aviation related endeavours, a large number of which were challenging if not downright dangerous. This is a massive achievement for any individual.

Most , if not all, would have required some very thorough planning and execution, along with a physical and mental toughness not common to the average human.

But having achieved all this,and at the age of 63, did he not know how to say, 'Ive been there , done that , time to move on.'

My question is, what exactly is he still trying to prove? When is it time to say ENOUGH. And , no this is not a defeatist attitude, but rather one of self preservation.

We humans can do just about anything we want, but not everything. Yes , we want to test our limits, and have fun doing it, butnone of us are invincible.

History is full of adventurers/heroes/stars, who did'nt know when to stop, and paid the ultimate price earlier than needed to be.

After all the more dangerous stuff he has done and survived, now this.
Reminds me of another brave guy , Steve Irwin, who wrestled alligators, and caught the world's most venemous snakes with his hands,been attacked by dragons, then only to fall victin to a normally gentle sea creature.

Lets hope Mr. Fossett is able to walk away from this one as well.
Posted By Anonymous : 6:43 AM ET
Although Ronnie in TN does have a valid point about the fossil fuels used by Miles in his search for Mr. Fossett. I think Miles should have picked Ronnie up on his way past Tennessee, so that Ronnie could help out in some way instead of feeling so useless.
Posted By Anonymous : 9:50 AM ET
First off, I would like to thank Miles and everyone else involved in this search mission. Searching for a pilot lost in that part of the world is always a very noble and extraordinary effort.
The ravines, canyons and scruffy tree canopy make it very difficult and dangerous to locate anything out there. When I was a kid my father and other pilots had to find a missing pilot in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. He had a problem and went down into a canyon. The trees sheared off the plane's wings and broke out the windshield and impaled the pilot in his seat. They also sustained and concealed the fuselage on the edge of a bushy, scrubby precipice. The pilot was injured but was discovered in time to get him to safety. Finding whatever is left of Fossett's plane, a small, light object concealed by topography and vegetation is a phenomenally complex challenge but these professional teams and dedicated volunteers are tireless and resourceful. Not to mention fearless.
I wish the search and rescue people, Fossett, his family, and friends, the very best luck and good weather. I hope everyone makes it out ok.
Posted By s lea : 3:24 PM ET
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