Last Word on Steve Fossett

Nearly two years after he died, the National Transportation Safety Board is out with its final report on what happened to Steve Fossett's plane in the California mountains.

Fossett, you'll recall, was the famed round-the-world adventurer, having circled the globe solo and nonstop by plane and balloon. He disappeared on a routine flight from a friend's ranch in Nevada; the California scrub where he crashed is so rugged that the wreckage of his plane was not found for a year.

The NTSB's summary is HERE, but these are the key lines:

"The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

"The pilot's inadvertent encounter with downdrafts that exceeded the climb capability of the airplane. Contributing to the accident were the downdrafts, high density altitude, and mountainous terrain."

The summary explains why the wreck was so hard to find: "A postimpact fire consumed the fuselage, with the exception of its steel frame. The wings were fragmented into numerous pieces. The ELT [emergency locator transmitter] was destroyed. Damage signatures on the propeller blades and the engine crankshaft indicated that the engine was operating at impact. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any malfunctions or failures that would have prevented normal operation."

In the end, Fossett, who had circled the world many times and broken many records, was killed by a violent wind.

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