Various news sources are reporting that Steve Fossett's wreckage has been found in the vicinity of Mammoth Lakes, California. There are a few interesting bits about what I've heard and read so far, but first have a look at the terrain that area.

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There are ski runs nearby and the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains isn't far either. The Mammoth Yosemite Airport sits at an elevation of 7,128 feet and the nearby ridges and peaks easily top 10,000.

In fact, the impact appears to have happen around 10,000 feet and was consistent with flying directly into terrain. The fuselage apparently disintegrated and the engine was found several hundred feet from the impact location.

My suspicion is that Steve had some sort of in-flight medical problem. He was a very experienced pilot and likely wouldn't have been doing any acro at that altitude (though is plane probably could have). And even if there was engine trouble, he'd have had the sense to try to get it down safely or at least slowly.

The NTSB should be able to figure out if the engine was running at the time of impact. But first they have to get all the wreckage transported to somewhere it can be studied.

The other puzzling thing is that he was supposed to be out look at dry lakes. There aren't really any dry lakes up there. Maybe 15-30 minutes away, down in the Owens Valley and beyond, but not up near the Sierra Crest.

I'm curious to hear what the NTSB and FAA are able to figure from all of this.

Posted by jzawodn at October 02, 2008 02:21 PM

Reader Comments
# John said:

I haven't heard, have they found any remains yet?

on October 2, 2008 06:12 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Not yet. But they're not expecting to either... lots of animals up there that'd get to them first.

on October 2, 2008 06:21 PM
# Sylvia said:

They've found a human bone or something - DNA testing not yet done but it looks like it'll confirm he was in the cockpit.

I don't suppose we'll find much more out although knowing the pitch of the plane on impact could be interesting.

on October 3, 2008 04:01 AM
# Chris said:

Is it possible for that plane he was in to fly on its own over any considerable distance (for 15-30 minutes), assuming he had been incapacitated by some medical problem?

on October 3, 2008 11:32 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Chris: most definitely.

on October 3, 2008 12:11 PM
# Jimo said:

Don't agree with your assesment Jeremy... Looking at the terrain, it looks to me that he had taken a scout for his land speed run, to the south and east, and was taking a sight seeing tour of the beautiful mountain lakes in that area. I believe the weather was bad that day, with storm couds covering the mountain top. My guess would be, he flew over the lakes, made a turn for home, and ran into a mountain in the clouds. There is a lot to do in the cockpit of a small plane, (8-KCABs don't have autopilots) watching the GPS while watching terrain and instruments... too much to do sometimes, especially when getting severely bounced around in mountain storm currents. My guess would be, he just made a mistake.

on October 5, 2008 07:28 AM
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on October 5, 2008 11:31 PM
# dbsonic said:

I would agree with Jeremy's comments. We were flying that day in TAGARS over Truckee and remember winds at 20 to 30kts from SW in the afternoon. I would characterize the conditions as windy with isolated and capped cumulus, probably 15k bases, that were rather streeted, which typically lends to actually good soaring conditions to the south of Minden(turbulent with areas of good lift and bad sink particularly around jagged peaks with unpredictable flows).

Jeremy, one possibility is that we was looking for flat lake bed areas at high altitudes to take advantage of density altitudes and thinner atmosphere for greater performance. I am not sure if land speed records dictate a certain altitude for the course but if not, that would be the way to go.

on October 9, 2008 12:50 PM
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