Fossett search continues

? The search for millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett continued Wednesday with some false leads but no sign of the 63-year-old aviator or his plane that vanished over Nevada.

Veteran pilots speculated that Fossett fell victim to the treacherous and sometimes deadly Sierra Nevada winds that squeeze through the narrow canyons. The winds are so powerful and tricky they can swirl an airplane like a leaf and even shear off a wing.

“There’s been times when I’ve been flying in the wind and my blood turns cold,” said Adam Mayberry, a private pilot and former spokesman for Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

A squadron of planes and ground crews from three states have been searching an area the size of Connecticut that is marked by rugged mountains jutting to 10,000 feet. Officials have described the task as “like searching for a needle in a haystack.”

Fossett – who survived numerous brushes with death during a series of record-breaking solo flights around the world by balloon, plane and boat – disappeared after taking off from a private airstrip Monday. He was scouting sites for an attempt at a land-speed record in a rocket-propelled car.

Authorities said his twin-engine Bellanca Citabria carried food, water and other survival gear, and estimated Fossett could survive at least a week.

The plane was equipped with a locator device, which so far has sent no signal. Fossett also wears a Breitling Emergency wristwatch that allows pilots to turn a knob and immediately signal their location, but no such signal was activated.

The Nevada National Guard planned to fly throughout Wednesday night and into the early morning hours of today, using C-130s and helicopters with infrared and thermal imaging equipment. The Civil Air Patrol and additional flight crews were scheduled to resume the full search at daybreak today.