James Stephen Fossett was an American businessman and a record-setting aviator, sailor, and adventurer. He was the first person to fly solo non-stop around the world in a balloon and in a fixed-wing aircraft. But what happened on September 3, 2007, and did they ever find Fossett?
A hiker discovered three crumpled identification cards in the eastern Sierra Nevada of California on September 29, 2008. An FAA-issued card, his Soaring Society of America membership card, and $1,005 in cash were among the artifacts that proved to be Fossett’s.
How did Steve Fossette Disappear?
Fossett took off at 8:45 am in a single-engine Champion 8KCAB Super Decathlon light aircraft from the Flying-M Ranch private airfield near Smith Valley, Nevada, on Labor Day morning, September 3, 2007.
According to Civil Air Patrol Public Information Officer Major Cynthia S. Ryan, he took off with enough fuel for a 4 to 5-hour trip.
It was stated at one point that he was out searching for possible locations for a planned land speed run. A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that Fossett did not file a flight plan and was not required to do so. (Source: USA Today)
Search and Rescue Mission
When Fossette didn’t show up, search parties were dispatched six hours later.
The plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), which is designed to activate automatically in a disaster, did not emit a signal. It was of an older model that was infamous for failing to operate after a crash.
After commencing a detailed and increasing search of what subsequently expanded into a nearly 20,000 square mile region of some of North America’s most severe terrain on the second day, Civil Air Patrol aircraft searched but discovered no evidence of wreckage.
By September 10, search crews had discovered eight previously unidentified crash sites, some of which were decades old. Due to the urgency of what was still considered a rescue mission, little effort was made to identify the aircraft in the uncharted crash sites. However, some speculated that one of them could have belonged to Charles Clifford Ogle, who had been missing since 1964. On September 12, survival experts speculated that Fossett was likely to be dead.
The Nevada Wing of the Civil Air Patrol announced on September 17 that all flights in support of its search efforts would be suspended, while National Guard search flights, private search flights, and ground searches would continue. (Source: SF Gate)
The Wreckage and Remains Recovery
A hiker discovered three crumpled identification cards in the eastern Sierra Nevada of California on September 29, 2008, about 65 miles south and 186 degrees of Fossett’s take-off position. An FAA-issued card, his Soaring Society of America membership card, and $1,005 in cash were all confirmed as belonging to Fossett.
Search workers discovered two big human bones on October 29 that they assumed belonged to Fossett. These bones were located 0.80 km east of the crash site, at 0.5 miles.
DNA profiling of the two bones by a California Department of Justice forensics laboratory confirmed a match to Fossett’s DNA on November 3. According to California police coroners. Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said Fossett would have died on impact in such a crash and that it was not uncommon for animals to drag remains away. (Source: BBC News)