Fossett, Steve

▪ 2008
 American adventurer
born April 22, 1944, Jackson, Tenn.

died Sept. 3, 2007, northern Nevada
set a number of world records in aviation and sailing; he became the first balloonist to circumnavigate the world alone in 2002 and made the first nonstop solo global flight in an airplane in 2005. Fossett undertook a number of challenges, including swimming the English Channel (1985), before gaining international attention with his ballooning feats. After five unsuccessful attempts to circumnavigate the globe, in 2002 he started at Northam, W.Aus., in the balloon Spirit of Freedom and successfully crossed his starting point on July 2. On Feb. 28, 2005, he took off from Salinas, Kan., piloting the GlobalFlyer, a specialized plane that featured 13 fuel tanks, and returned there on March 3, some 67 hours later. Fossett undertook the longest nonstop airplane flight, taking off on Feb. 8, 2006, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard the GlobalFlyer and making an emergency landing in Bournemouth, Eng., on February 11, having covered a record 42,469.5 km (26,389.3 mi). As a sailor, Fossett recorded the quickest transatlantic crossing—4 days 16 hr 28 min 6 sec—in 2001, and in 2004 he circumnavigated the globe in an unprecedented time of 58 days 9 hr 32 min 45 sec. His other achievements included the fastest flight (1,194.17 km/hr [742.02 mph]) in a nonsupersonic airplane (2001) as well as a number of gliding records. Fossett was reported missing after his single-engine plane disappeared during a scouting mission. In November his wife sought to have him declared legally dead. Fossett's remains were found in the Sierra Nevada in California on Oct. 2, 2008, and positively identified through DNA technology the following month.

▪ 2006

      On March 3, 2005, Steve Fossett made history as the first person to fly an airplane around the world alone without stopping or refueling. Piloting the GlobalFlyer, a specialized plane that featured 13 fuel tanks and a 2-m (1 m = 3.28 ft) cockpit, the American businessman and adventurer returned to Salina, Kan., 67 hours and 1 minute after taking off on February 28. He subsisted on a liquid diet and catnaps and overcame a fuel shortage—several hours into the mission, approximately 1,178 kg (2,600 lb) of fuel inexplicably disappeared—to complete the 36,898-km (1 km = 0.62 mi) journey. It was not Fossett's first record—he had already set almost 100 records in sailing and aviation—and it did not appear to be his last. Several months after the historic flight, he announced that he would attempt to break other records. He hoped to set a distance record of 46,669 km in the GlobalFlyer in 2006, and he planned to fly a glider to an altitude of 30,480 m, doubling the current mark, the following year.

      Fossett was born on April 22, 1944, in Jackson, Tenn., and grew up in California, where he studied economics and philosophy at Stanford University (B.A., 1966). After earning an M.B.A. (1968) at Washington University, St. Louis, he became a successful commodities broker in Chicago, and in 1980 he founded the securities company Lakota Trading. Fossett soon amassed a personal fortune that enabled him to pursue his adventures. He undertook a number of challenges, including swimming the English Channel (1985), before gaining international attention with his ballooning feats. In 1995 he registered his first record in the sport with a solo transpacific flight. The following year he began his highly publicized effort to become the first person to balloon around the world alone. The initial attempt, however, ended after three days and 3,540 km, and a series of subsequent efforts also failed. On his fourth try, in August 1998, he nearly died when the balloon was struck by lightning and crash-landed in the Coral Sea. In December of that year, he joined forces with Richard Branson, a British entrepreneur who later sponsored Fossett's 2005 flight, and Per Lindstrand of Sweden in a bid to become the first balloonists to circumnavigate the globe. Bad weather ended the trip after 19,960 km, however, and a subsequent mission was canceled after Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Britain's Brian Jones accomplished the feat in 1999. On June 19, 2002, in Australia, Fossett undertook his sixth attempt at a solo balloon flight around the world. He set off from Northam, W.Aus., in the Spirit of Freedom and made history on July 2 as he crossed his starting point, eventually landing in the outback of Queensland.

      Fossett was also renowned as a speed sailor. In 2001 he recorded the quickest transatlantic crossing—4 days 17 hr 28 min 6 sec—and in 2004 he circumnavigated the globe in an unprecedented time of 58 days 9 hr 32 min 45 sec. Soon after, he retired from sailing, having set more than 20 records in the sport. His other achievements included the fastest flight (1,194.17 km/hr) in a nonsupersonic airplane (2001) as well as a number of gliding records.

Amy Tikkanen

* * *

▪ American aviator
in full  James Stephen Fossett 
born April 22, 1944, Jackson, Tenn., U.S.
died Sept. 3, 2007, western Nevada
 American businessman and adventurer, who set a number of world records, most notably in aviation and sailing. In 2002 he became the first balloonist (ballooning) to circumnavigate the world alone, and in 2005 he completed the first nonstop, solo global flight in an airplane.

      Fossett grew up in California, where he studied economics and philosophy at Stanford University (B.A., 1966). After earning an M.B.A. (1968) at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., he became a successful commodities broker, and in 1980 he founded the securities company Lakota Trading. Fossett undertook a number of challenges, including swimming the English Channel (1985), before gaining international attention with his ballooning feats. In 1995 he registered his first record in the sport with a solo transpacific flight. The following year he began his highly publicized effort to become the first person to balloon around the world alone. The initial attempt, however, ended after three days, and a series of subsequent efforts also failed. In 2002 Fossett made his sixth attempt at the record, taking off from Northam, West Australia, in the Spirit of Freedom. On July 2 he made history as he crossed his starting point, eventually landing in the outback of Queensland.

      In 2005 Fossett became the first person to fly an airplane around the world solo without stopping or refueling. Piloting the GlobalFlyer, a specialized plane that featured 13 fuel tanks and a 7-foot (2-metre) cockpit, he took off from Salinas, Kansas, on February 28 and returned there some 67 hours later, on March 3. On Feb. 8, 2006, he undertook the longest nonstop airplane flight, taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard the GlobalFlyer. Some 76 hours later, on February 11, he made an emergency landing in Bournemouth, England, having covered a record 26,389.3 miles (42,469.5 km).

      Fossett was also renowned as a speed sailor. In 2001 he recorded the quickest transatlantic crossing—4 days 17 hr 28 min 6 sec—and in 2004 he circumnavigated the globe in an unprecedented time of 58 days 9 hr 32 min 45 sec. By the early 21st century, he had set some 100 records in sailing and aviation. His other achievements included the fastest flight (742.02 miles per hour [1,194.17 km per hour]) in a nonsupersonic airplane (2001) as well as a number of gliding records.

      On Sept. 3, 2007, Fossett was reported missing after his single-engine plane disappeared during a scouting mission in western Nevada. Subsequent search efforts were hampered by the area's remoteness and rugged terrain. On Feb. 15, 2008, Fossett was declared dead by a court in Chicago. In October the wreckage of his plane and what were believed to be his remains were found in Inyo National Forest, Nevada; DNA tests later confirmed that the bones belonged to Fossett.

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Universalium. 2010.

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