NTSB Issues Facts On Fossett Crash

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It was a beautiful day in the equally beautiful mountainous area that straddles the Nevada/California border. A perfect day for what Steve Fossett's wife called a "Sunday drive" in a sporty aerobatic Decathlon. The NTSB's factual report of the aviation icon's final flight suggests a combination of high altitude and unpredictable winds led to the crash of Fossett's aircraft into a mountainside near Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in September of 2007. A nearby remote weather observation site recorded average winds of more than 20 mph with gusts to 55 mph at the time of the crash and anecdotal evidence supports that.

The report quotes a King Air pilot who's flown a return trip from Santa Barbara to Reno about the time Fossett was in the same area as saying the air was "unusually smooth when it was not turbulent." He'd encountered clear air turbulence on the outbound trip and had advised his return passengers to buckle their seatbelts. A camper reported seeing Fossett's aircraft about 30 miles from the crash site and said that it had been windy through the night and the morning of the crash and "it looked like [the aircraft] was standing still due to the wind," according to the report. The report also says the density altitude for the crash site was about 12,700 feet at the time of the crash. The manufacturer lists the service ceiling at 15,700 feet.