Steve Fossett's been missing in the Nevada desert since Labor Day. The Beaver Creek millionaire thrill-seeker who's set records for circumnavigating the globe in a balloon, flying solo nonstop for almost 80 hours, and other feats of derring-whoohoo, was out scouting sites for a future run at the land-speed record. He was soloing in a single-engine plane and had not filed a flight plan.
Fossett is part of an elite bunch of super-rich who get their internal chemistry boost from undertaking projects others might consider dicey, ridiculously expensive or just plain balmy. He's teamed up with gonzo Virgin Records head Richard Branson and for a while had a friendly rivalry over the balloon record with fellow Coloradan Dave Liniger (pictured above), whose gloriously doomed effort to balloon the stratosphere was chronicled in our story, "The Final Frontier."
Although the lack or radio contact doesn't bode well, friends are still hopeful that Fossett will emerge from this latest scrape alive. Cynics might insist that a 63-year-old tycoon who's put himself in harm's way in a variety of small craft in hostile conditions for more than a decade has an inveterate death wish, but adventurers have their own ideas of what constitutes a rational approach to risk. Fossett was planning to cruise a dry lake-bed at around 770 miles per hour for the land-speed record. But first he has to get back to the ground in one piece. – Alan Prendergast