Name at birth: James Stephen FossettMillionaire adventurer Steve Fossett is remembered for his record-breaking balloon flights and for his mysterious 2007 disappearance and death. Steve Fossett made his fortune in American financial markets with his brokerage companies Lakota Trading, Inc. and Marathon Securities, Inc. before turning his attention to aviation and other daredevil pursuits. He made the first solo balloon crossing of the Pacific Ocean in 1995, and in 2002 he became the first person to fly around the world alone, nonstop, in a balloon. (He launched from Northam, Western Australia on June 19, 2002 and returned to Australia on July 2, 2002.) Steve Fossett then became the first person to fly solo around the world in an airplane without stopping to refuel, landing at Salina, Kansas on March 3, 2005 after a 67-hour trip. According to Fossett's web site, "Long fascinated by endurance sports, he has swum the English Channel, run Alaska's famed Iditarod Dogsled Race, driven the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race and finished the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii." His death was surrounded by confusion and mystery. He disappeared on September 3, 2007 after taking off for a short flight in a small plane from a private Nevada airstrip. Despite extensive searches over the following days and weeks, his plane could not be found. On February 15, 2008 a probate court judge in Chicago declared Fossett to be legally dead. That fall a hiker in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California found ID cards belonging to Fossett, and his plane was discovered a few days later -- on October 1, 2008 -- near that spot. Only a few bones remained at the crash site, but DNA tests later revealed them to be a match for Fossett. In 2009, the National Transporation Safety Board concluded that the probable cause of the crash was "the pilot?s inadvertent encounter with downdrafts that exceeded the climb capability of the airplane."
Steve Fossett was 5?10? tall, according to his FAA card? He also tried (but failed) to become the first to circle the globe nonstop in a multi-person balloon; his attempts included a 1998 flight with British businessman Richard Branson, which ended with their craft ditching in the Pacific near Hawaii. The first circumnavigation was then accomplished in March 1999 by Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and Englishman Brian Jones? Steve Fossett also completed the longest nonstop flight in aviation history by flying solo for 26,389.3 miles over 76 hours and 45 minutes in 2006.
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