Friends Worried, Yet Optimistic, as Fossett Search Continues

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Sir Richard Branson, who financed many of Steve Fossett's adventures, told CNN on Wednesday that he is "obviously worried" about his friend, but remains optimistic. "If he's landed and he's not too badly hurt, he's the one person in the world who will be mentally and physically equipped to get out of it," Branson said. But he added that Fossett was wearing a Breitling watch capable of emitting an emergency distress signal when manually activated, and he's concerned that no signal has been sent. Meanwhile, as of Wednesday afternoon, the search continues across 600 square miles of desert south of the private airstrip where Fossett launched Monday morning in a Citabria Super Decathtlon, planning to fly for a few hours to scout locations for a land speed record attempt.

Maj. Cynthia Ryan, of the Civil Air Patrol, said the desert search is challenging, covering terrain cut by ravines and thick with sagebrush. Bumpy wind conditions are hard on airborne searchers. "It's a very large haystack," she said. "And an airplane is a very small needle. No doubt about that." CNN has posted its interview with Branson and other updates at its online video site.