(Adds details of Wedmesday search)
By William Albright
RENO, Nev., Sept 5 The search for missing U.S.
adventurer Steve Fossett resumed on Wednesday as his friend,
British billionaire Richard Branson, tried to find him through
a satellite mapping service offered by Internet data provider
Branson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. he was worried
that Fossett, who disappeared over the Nevada desert after
taking off in a small plane late on Monday, had not activated
the aircraft's emergency tracking beacon.
"I'm talking with friends at Google (GOOG.O) about seeing
whether we can look at satellite images over the last four days
to see whether they can see which direction he might have been
flying and whether they can see any disturbances anywhere that
they can pin from space," he said from Barcelona, Spain.
The company's Google Earth product offers a mapping service
using satellite imagery.
The state wing of the Civil Air Patrol resumed its search
on Wednesday, focusing on a 600-square mile (1,554-sq-km)
area south of the airstrip used by Fossett about 80 miles (128
km) southeast of Reno, Nevada.
Three helicopters and six airplanes are involved in the
mission. One of the airplanes is a Utah Civil Air Patrol
aircraft with imaging technology that quickly distinguishes
man-made objects, including aircraft wreckage, from natural
On Tuesday 13 aircraft looked in vain for signs of
Fossett's plane in the Nevada desert and mountains. Maj.
Cynthia Ryan of the Civil Air Patrol said on Wednesday
electronic transmissions received on Tuesday and suspected of
coming from a downed aircraft were "bogus" signals.
Branson has teamed up with Fossett on several aviation
adventures and his Virgin company underwrote the U.S. aviator's
successful first solo nonstop flight around the world in 2005.
"He's not only the greatest aviator in the world, he's also
the greatest gliding pilot in the world ... I'm very confident
that he would have got the plane down in one piece as long as
the terrain below him was desert and not mountainous hills or
woods or rocks," Branson said.
"Having said that, obviously we're worried (about) the fact
that there's been no emergency beacon go off ... He could be
injured which means the emergency services have just got to get
to him as soon as possible."
Authorities said Fossett, 63, had planned to scout sites in
the Nevada desert for an attempt to set a world land speed
record, a bid that Branson described as highly dangerous.
"In fact, I've personally tried to dissuade him out of this
particular record because there are extreme risks attached to
it," he said.
Fossett, who was piloting a plane with enough fuel for four
or five hours of flight, earned his fortune as a financial
trader. In 2002 he became the first person to fly a balloon
solo around the world.
Branson said it would be ironic if Fossett -- whose
balloons were twice forced down in the Pacific -- had run into
trouble on what was supposed to be a routine flight.
"If you look at the history of adventurers, it is so often
the simple things (that cause trouble) ... Lawrence of Arabia
went through everything and was then killed in a motorbike
accident when he'd given up all his dangerous pursuits in
Arabia," he said.
(Additional reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco and
David Ljunggren in Ottawa; editing by David Wiessler; Reuters
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