Source AP ©

Steve Fossett record-breaking aviator missing in flight over Nevada

Steve Fossett was scouting Nevada's dry lake beds for the perfect place to conduct test runs ahead of an effort to break the world's land speed record when his small plane disappeared on Monday, officials said. The search for the adventurer was still under way Wednesday morning.

Fossett already had sought approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to use a 15-mile (24-kilometer)-long dry lake bed in remote east-central Nevada, said Chris Worthington, a bureau spokesman. His Marathon Racing Inc. applied for a special recreation permit earlier this year in anticipation of making a run in Eureka County, about 225 miles (362 kilometers) east of Reno.

Just last week, the bureau announced it had completed an environmental assessment of Fossett's plan and would seek public comment this month.

The team hoped Fossett's turbojet-powered racer, Sonic Arrow, would be capable of exceeding 800 mph (1,287 kph), or at least breaking the land speed record of 766.6 mph (1,234 kph).

Fossett initially considered making test runs at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats.

Civil Air Patrol Maj. Cynthia S. Ryan said authorities were told that Fossett set out Monday to scout Nevada sites he could use for testing.

Briton Andy Green set the record of 766.6 mph (1,234 kph) in October 1997 in the Black Rock Desert 90 miles (145 kph) north of Reno, the same place where more than 48,000 people gathered last week for the Burning Man counterculture festival.

Worthington said he had spoken with Fossett as recently as last week. He said the adventurer chose the Eureka County site because he thought Utah's salt flats were too soft and the Black Rock Desert too rutted from use.

Fossett suggested he would not attempt to break the record this year, but rather spend time removing rocks from the dry lake bed and improving an access road, Worthington said.

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