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Fossett search 'downgraded'

Some aerial missions suspended

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Nevada Civil Air Patrol has "downgraded" the search for missing adventurer Steve Fossett, suspending aerial missions while keeping two aircraft on standby to follow up any possible leads as to his whereabouts.

Nevada State police spokesman Chuck Allen told AFP news agency: "The Civil Air Patrol feel that they have completed their search of 98 per cent of the ground that needed to be covered."

The National Guard is, however, continuing its probe of the state with five helicopters, while ground-based rescuers scour the enormous area in which the remains of the presumably dead aviator and his Bellanca Citabria Super Decathalon lie.

Attempts to locate Fossett have been hampered by the fact that he did not file a flight plan before taking off on 3 September from Barron Hilton's Flying M Ranch, roughly 70 miles southeast of Reno. Efforts by volunteers using Amazon's Mechanical Turk and the latest sat images from Google Earth to spot the plane's wreckage have proved as fruitless as the physical operations.

Ominously, a police officer involved in those operations last week admitted Fossett "may never be found". ®

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