LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The search for adventurer Steve Fossett entered its fourth day on Wednesday, with rescuers preparing to probe a lake close to where the aviator's plane took off before it disappeared.
As aircraft took to the skies shortly after 7:00 am (1400 GMT), police said a search and rescue boat fitted with sonar equipment would be deployed on a lake near the Hilton Flying M Ranch, 80 miles (129 km) southeast of Reno, Nevada where Fossett was last seen.
"The new information is that they're going to put a boat onto the lake with sonar equipment that can detect large and fixed objects beneath the surface of the water," Nevada State police spokesman Chuck Allen told AFP.
While rescuers had no information to suggest that Fossett's light plane had crashed into Walker Lake, in Mineral County, Allen said officials wanted to take to the water "if only to rule it out."
Fossett -- who has survived numerous brushes with death during a series of record-breaking solo flights around the world by balloon and airplane -- has not been heard from since taking off early Monday.
The 63-year-old world record-breaker's plane disappeared over a vast expanse of rugged mountainous terrain covering some 600 square miles (155,000 hectares).
Officials have compared the hunt for Fossett's plane as like "searching for a needle in a haystack."
Rescuers were hoping to take advantage of clear skies and calm flying conditions on Thursday after being buffeted by turbulence during searches earlier in the week, Allen said.
"The conditions today are actually better than yesterday and yesterday was a very good day," he said. "Weather wise we are in excellent shape for searching. The winds are going to be mild and visibility is very good."
Although the search for Fossett had so far been fruitless, Allen said the mood of officials was upbeat.
"We're all remaining very positive and very hopeful. Each new day we all feel today's the day we're going to find him. That's the attitude we're sharing as a group," he said.
Fossett's single-engine Bellanca aircraft was equipped with an electronic tracking device designed to be triggered in the event of a rough landing, but it had not been activated.
Fossett made the first solo nonstop, non-refueled circumnavigation of the world in 67 hours in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. In 2002, he was the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon.
British tycoon Richard Branson, who partnered Fossett on earlier attempts to circle the globe in a balloon, said Wednesday that he was concerned by Fossett's failure to activate an emergency beacon but remained positive.
"(Steve's) not only the greatest aviator in the world, he's also the greatest gliding pilot in the world," Branson said.
"I'm very confident that he would have got the plane down in one piece as long as th e terrain below him was desert and not mountainous hills or woods or rocks.
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