NTSB Releases Probable Cause Of Fossett Crash -- Downdraft

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The NTSB has determined downdrafts were the probable cause of the fatal September 3, 2007, crash near Mammoth Lakes, Calif., of a Bellanca 8KCAB-180 piloted by Steve Fossett. The Board determined the aircraft inadvertently encountered descending air that exceeded the climb capabilities of the Bellanca, which was flying over mountainous terrain at a high density altitude. Fossett's disappearance initiated a month-long search that involved the Civil Air Patrol, state and county authorities, Fossett's friends and an unknown number of private citizens who participated online by scanning the latest satellite imagery of the search area. But it was not until a hiker found some of the pilot's personal affects on October 7, 2008, that an approximation of the wreckage's whereabouts was determined. An aerial search based on the findings discovered the wreckage about half a mile away at an elevation of approximately 10,000 feet. Fossett was a pioneering aviator and set records for distance and speed flown in numerous aircraft types. He was also the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon.

Among Fossett's long list of world records, he holds those for the longest non-stop flight in aviation history (25,766 miles flown in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer); fastest speed flown in a manned balloon (200 mph); and longest out-and-back flight in a glider (1,244 miles). The Board's report is available online here.