It has now been nine days since Steve Fossett took off from the Flying M Ranch in western Nevada … and completely vanished. Searchers have found no trace of him. They and Fossett’s family are clinging to the hope that he’s alive and just waiting for rescue, though the absence of any signal from a transponder or his satellite-signaling Breitling watch remains troubling. On Sunday, search organizers made a plea for more helicopters and trained observers who could contribute to the painstaking search. In addition, the “Amazon Mechanical Turk” Internet-based satellite image analysis project began its own efforts to find Fossett.
The system was employed (unsuccessfully) earlier this year in a search for famed Silicon Valley computer scientists Jim Gray, who disappeared in a small sailing boat and has never been found. Although rescuers are beginning to doubt that Fossett is still alive, they have not given up hope of finding him and his plane. As with the Gray effort, civilians are being recruited in the search—which means you can help.
Register here, and you’ll be shown sample images of aircraft similar to the Bellanca Super Decathlon that Fossett was flying and an actual recent satellite image to review. Each image is a relatively small section of land, so there are literally hundreds of thousands of images from the area in which they’re searching—hence the need for public assistance sorting through them all. The instructions for how to report any potential “hits” are straightforward, and there are also instructions on how to do this through Google Earth using the properly updated satellite images. —Eric Adams