And for all the thousands of miles they've searched, some CAP officers believe Fossett isn't far away. Studies of recent search-and-rescue operations show that the preponderance of crashes occur within a relatively short distance from either end of the runway. "Airplanes don't often just fall out of the sky en route, when they are at altitude and grinding along," says Cynthia Ryan. "It's the takeoff/departure and approach/landing that poses the greatest risk for failure.
"What do we believe in our gut?" she continues. "Fossett is somewhere in a 20- to 25-mile radius of the ranch. He's there, in a small debris field, obscured by the commonplace of shadow and ground cover or foliage. That's not glamorous, is it? Not like taking off and just disappearing."
On November 26, 2007, Peggy Fossett, Steve's wife of 38 years, petitioned the Cook County Court in Illinois to have her husband declared dead. "I no longer hold out any hope that Steve has survived," she wrote.