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'Brotherhood' searches for aviation adventurer

MINDEN, Nev. -- Like the other two dozen pilots flying low and slow over the rough landscape of southern Nevada, John Morgan knows Steve Fossett. So, volunteering in this search is as natural as breathing.

"Oh, we're like a kind of brotherhood," said Morgan as he hugged a rugged canyon along the Walker River on Wednesday. "If he went down in this area, we could fly over it ten times and it would be tough to see."

VIDEO: Search continues for Fossett

Morgan is part of one of the biggest air searches in memory looking for traces of the small single-engine plane piloted by Fossett. The man who holds a fistful of aviation records took off from a near-by ranch Monday morning, and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

"I'd come out and help look for anyone in trouble, don't get me wrong. But helping another pilot is just something we do," said Morgan, who has known Fossett for more than 10 years. "He used to have a glider like mine, and we'd swap parts."

Hoping for the best
But as he slowed his Husky two-seater and squinted across a ravine in the steep Sierra Nevadas, the size of the task hits home. The search area is over 600 square miles and the wreckage of a small plane could be in an area the size of a basketball court. According to Maj. Cynthia Ryan of the Nevada Civil Air Patrol, it could take a week, even in ideal weather, to conduct a through search.

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Five hundred miles away another pilot is following the news just as closely. Balloon pilot Merlin Sagon took Fossett on his first hot air balloon ride a dozen years ago. "Oh he loved it!" remembers Sagon. It was an experience that led Fossett to take balloon instruction from Sagon.

Now, as the hours continued mount since Fossett was last seen, Morgan re-fueled and headed back out to the search area. Sagon and the flying community can only hope for the best, "God, I hope he's okay."