Sir Richard Branson is hoping to find US adventurer Steve Fossett using internet search engine Google‘s satellite maps.
Fossett, who has set 116 records in five different sports, disappeared on Monday during a routine light aircraft flight over Nevada in the US.
Teams have widened their search for him to cover 10,000 sq miles (25,900 sq km) of desert in Nevada and California. They are using thermal imaging to scour the mountain terrain where his plane went down.
But according to reports, Fosset did not file a flight plan, and it is feared he may not have activated his plane’s emergency tracking beacon.
Branson said he hoped to be able to use the technology behind Google Earth’s satellite mapping and imagery to find his friend.
“I’m talking with friends at Google about seeing whether we can look at satellite images over the last four days to see if they can see which direction he might have been flying and- any disturbances anywhere,” he said.
Fossett’s plane was carrying enough fuel to fly for four to five hours. According to authorities, he was planning to scout for potential sites for a world land speed record attempt.
Branson and Fosset teamed up on several record attempts, and his company underwrote the pilot’s first solo non-stop flight around the world in 2005.
Mr Fossett made his fortune in the American financial services industry. But he is best known for the number of world records he has broken as a pilot, balloonist and sailor. He was the first person to fly solo around the world in a hot air balloon and last year he broke the world record for flying further than anyone else in history.