By Brian K. Roat
On Highway 395, south of Reno and Carson City, stands a small, obscure sign for Minden-Tahoe Airport (MEV). A left turn down the long, narrow two lanes of rural Airport Road leads to more hangers than you might expect for this small airfield.
On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 8, a sense of urgency prevailed. Five days earlier, world-record-holding aviator Steve Fossett was reported missing, after a planned solo flight in a Bellanca Super Decathlon.
In the parking area, Reno’s CBS affiliate, Channel 2 News, broadcast a live update while large remote satellite trucks from CNN and NBC waited nearby. Emergency response command vehicles from the state of Nevada and Douglas County stood at the ready. Additionally, a military presence included an operations tent, support equipment and command vehicle.
As sunset approached, a Blackhawk helicopter temporarily landed on the flight line to swap out crewmembers from a search and rescue shift, then quickly lifted off to return to base. The setting sun lit up the low summer clouds hugging the distant hills, in a beautiful, yet eerie way.
While at the airport, this aviator found himself thinking, “He’s out there somewhere,” then, with a breath of desperation, “I hope he makes it.”
Our hearts go out to those who knew and loved this record-breaking aviator. Our love of aviation was forged in the fire burning deep in the belly of cloud-splitting adventurers such as Steve Fossett. May we always revere that adventurous spirit and pioneering attitude.