“We had to really upgrade the technical capability of balloons, and the flight was much more difficult than I’d ever imagined it would be.I tried six times over the course of six years before succeeding,” he said.“The ranch he took off from covers a huge area, and Steve has had far tougher challenges to overcome in the past.” Branson struck a more cautious tone Wednesday, saying he was “obviously worried” that Fossett may be injured because he was wearing a watch capable of emitting an emergency distress signal.
Fossett was in Sparks, Nevada, last month preparing a jet racer to break the land speed record at Bonneville Flats in northwest Utah.
Ryan said Tuesday authorities were analyzing information from radar intelligence to track Fossett.
Five planes being used in the search will be able to cruise at about 1,000 feet, the spokesman said.
Though there were no signs of Fossett on Tuesday evening, searchers and friends remained optimistic that the eclectic adventurer was safe.
He has prevailed in the past after experiencing complications during a flight, once walking 30 miles for help after making a forced landing, said the Civil Air Patrol’s Maj. Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic company has sponsored some of Fossett’s attempts to shatter world flight records, said Tuesday that Fossett’s track record suggests “we’ll get some good news soon.” “Steve is a tough old boot.
I suspect he is waiting by his plane right now for someone to pick him up,” Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, said in a written statement.
(noon ET) Monday in good flying conditions from hotel magnate Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch, Ryan said.
A world-record-holding pilot, yachtsman and balloonist, Fossett is an accomplished sportsman who knows how to handle himself in the wild.
He’s credited with 115 world records or world firsts, and holds official world records in five sports, according to his Web site.