Image Courtesy of Mary Frances Howard

James Stephen Fossett
(April 22, 1944 – missing September 3, 2007, declared legally dead February 15, 2008)

He was an American aviator, sailor, and adventurer who became the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon. He made his fortune in the financial services industry and was best known for many world records, including five nonstop circumnavigations of the Earth: as a long-distance solo balloonist, as a sailor, and as a solo flight fixed-wing aircraft pilot.

A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and The Explorers Club, Fossett set 116 records in five different sports, 60 of which still stand.

Fossett was reported missing after the plane he was flying over the Nevada desert failed to return.[4] Despite more than one month of searches by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and others, Fossett could not be found, and the search by CAP was called off on October 2, 2007. However, privately-funded and directed search efforts continued.

On November 2, 2007, Peggy Fossett and Dick Rutan accepted the Spread Wings Award in Steve Fossett's behalf at the 2007 Spreading Wings Gala, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Denver, Colorado.

On November 26, 2007, Fossett's wife requested that Fossett be declared legally dead.[6] The petition was granted on February 15, 2008.

SOURCE and More on the Article: WIKIPEDIA

Rescuers to Resume Search for Plane Carrying Aviation Adventurer Steve Fossett

Plane Carrying Aviation Adventurer Steve Fossett Missing
Fox News - Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rescue crews on Wednesday were to resume their search for the plane of aviation adventurer Steve Fossett, who disappeared after takeoff from a private airstrip in Nevada.

Fossett, 63, the first person to fly solo around the world in a hot-air balloon, last was seen on Monday in a single engine plane heading south of Smith Valley, Nev., Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Western-Pacific region of the Federal Aviation Administration, told

Fossett departed at 8:45 a.m. Monday from the Flying M Ranch in Yerington, Nev., but did not file a flight plan so it is unknown where he was going.

Photo Associated Press
March 3, 2005: Steve Fossett and Sir Richard Branson, left to right, 
celebrate after Fossett landed the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer at Salina 
Municipal Airport in his solo flight around the world without refueling, Kansas.
See More Photos at Fox News

A friend at the ranch reported Fossett missing Monday night when he didn't return, Gregor said.

Click here for photos of Fossett.

Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center in Langley, Va., is coordinating the search with Civil Air Patrol to find Fossett's blue and white plane.

Rescue crews have found no signs of Fossett’s plane yet, said Maj. Cynthia Ryan, a spokeswoman for the Civil Air Patrol.

Six single engine planes carrying crews of three launched Tuesday morning to search the air for Fossett. Fossett had a full tank of fuel that would provide four to five hours, Ryan said.

The search area includes hundreds of square miles of rugged terrain and area airports are on alert for the missing plane.

Richard Branson, friend of Fossett who financially backed some missions, called him a “tough old boot.”

“I suspect he is waiting by his plane right now for someone to pick him up,” Branson, Virgin Group founder, said in a statement. “Based on his track record, I feel confident we’ll get some good news soon.”

In 2005, Fossett made the first solo non-stop, non-refueled circumnavigation of the world in 67 hours.

He and a co-pilot also claim to have set a world glider altitude record of 50,671 feet during a flight in August over the Andes Mountains.

Fossett, a Stanford University graduate with a master's degree from Washington University in St. Louis, came to Chicago to work in the securities business and ultimately founded his own firm, Marathon Securities.

The 63-year-old has climbed some of the world's tallest peaks, including the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He also swam the English Channel in 1985, placed 47th in the Iditarod dog sled race in 1992 and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in 1996.

In 1995, Fossett became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon, landing in Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Fossett, of Beaver Creek, Colo., was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in July. He told a crowd gathered at the Dayton Convention Center in Ohio that he would continue flying.

"I'm hoping you didn't give me this award because you think my career is complete, because I'm not done," Fossett said.

Fossett said he planned to go to Argentina in November in an effort to break a glider record.'s Melissa Drosjack and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved.


Discussion Threads at ATS (

Disappearance of Adventurer Steve Fossett Baffles Experts

By Steve Friess 09.05.07 | 5:00 PM

As the search for missing millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett entered its third day Wednesday, the disappearance of the highly skilled and experienced pilot, on a clear day in terrain familiar to him, continued to baffle rescue crews and aviation experts.

Fossett, 63, has not been seen or heard from since departing in a single-engine aircraft early Monday for a brief recreational jaunt from the Flying M Ranch in rural western Nevada. His wife, Peggy Fossett, was waiting at the ranch -- an exclusive retreat owned by hotel magnate William Barron Hilton -- for her husband to return by noon so they could leave the state on a private jet.

More than a dozen aircraft have been used to scour the dense, mountainous region about 90 miles south of Reno since the search began in earnest at 6 p.m. Monday, but so far there's been no indication of Fossett or the blue-and-white Citabria Super Decathlon he was flying.

"This is kind of strange because these aircrafts have transponders and emergency locators and you can usually readily find them anywhere in the world, including under the sea," said Ross Aimer, CEO of Aviation Experts, a San Clemente, California-based aviation consulting firm.

"This guy is totally lost.... So far, nobody's heard the electronic location beacon," said Aimer, who has flown the region several times. "That sounds to me very, very strange. There's all kinds of possibilities."

The unlikely disappearance has already spawned rampant speculation on the internet about possible conspiracies and government involvement, fueled in part by CNN journalist Miles O'Brien's on-air comments Tuesday that Fossett may have wandered into restricted airspace in the military's top-secret Area 51 or Nellis Air Force Base. As both sites are more than 300 miles from the search area, Maj. Cynthia S. Ryan, spokeswoman for the Civil Air Patrol Nevada Wing, called such notions "laughable."

Such disappearances aren't unheard of in these parts, a rough, hilly terrain of sagebrush, pine and dry lake beds, according to Ryan, who said the region's mountains are "full of plane wreckage that nobody's ever found."

Early Wednesday, searchers had a false alarm as they spotted something they were sure was Fossett's plane. It was not.

"We thought we had it nailed," said Ryan at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, describing elation in the command center upon spotting what rescuers thought was Fossett's plane.

"It turned out to be one of the many unmanned wreck sites from previous years," Ryan said. "(Rescuers) sent in a helicopter, put a man on the ground. They verified it was not Mr. Fossett or his aircraft."

Officials say there's been no detection of the emergency locator beacon that would automatically go off in the event of a crash or could have been enabled by Fossett himself if he were capable. Fossett did not file a flight plan and didn't carry extra radio equipment because he was only planning to be gone for a short while, Ryan said.

Fossett's wife of more than 30 years was believed to be in seclusion Wednesday at the Flying M Ranch, according to William Hasley, co-author of the 2006 memoir, Chasing the Wind: The Autobiography of Steve Fossett. The Fossetts have no children.

Fossett is a veteran aviator known for setting world records. In 2002, on his sixth try, he became the first person to fly solo around the world in a hot-air balloon.

He has an application pending with the federal Bureau of Land Management to allow him to try to break the land-speed record in a jet-powered race car in the northern Nevada desert sometime next year. Hasley and others have speculated that Fossett was scoping out dry lake beds to challenge that record.

Billionaire businessman Richard Branson, Fossett's close friend and frequent financial backer of his record-breaking efforts, told Reuters on Wednesday that he's asked contacts at Google to see if the company's satellite images can help in the search for Fossett.

Hasley called the disappearance and the inability to locate Fossett a "mind-blowing thing."

"I can't figure this out because it is a mountainous area but I think he was looking at the desert part of it," said Hasley, a Los Angeles-based author who last saw the missing aviator in July when Fossett was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.

Noting that Fossett sits on the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America, Hasley said, "I'm hopeful even if he did crash, he would be able to survive. He has unbelievable survival skills."

Hasley said if Fossett died amid a simple outing on a day with optimal conditions, it would be a cruel irony, considering his legacy.

"He's crashed all over the world in planes and balloons," said Hasley, who has not had contact with Peggy Fossett since the aviator went missing. "I would be very discouraged if he passed this way. But I'm not giving up hope."

Ryan was also optimistic.

"I can't think of anyone more experienced and capable of dealing with an emergency than Steve Fossett," she said. "The chances are still very, very good that we'll find this man."


Originally posted by johnlear at ATS Post ID 3485269

I didn't know Steve but I know the Flying M Ranch very well and flew out of there many times. I was Baron Hiltons personal pilot (Barron owns the Flying M) for about 3 years.

Here is a map that shows the Flying M Ranch (blue rectangle of left) in relation to the Navy Undersea Warfare Center in Hawthorne. The Flying M Ranch is 18 miles due west of NUWC on the East Walker River.

I do not believe that NUWC could have had anything to do with Steve's disappearance its just on the same map I am using to show where the Flying M Ranch is located.

Google maps image showing the location of the Flying 'M' ranch in relation to Hawthorne Nevada and the Naval Underwater Warfare Center NUWC base...

Originally posted by makeitso ATS POST ID 3485328

Thanks for the map John.  I've been using this interactive map to look around, but google earth would probably be even better I suppose.  Relying on your knowledge of the area, perhaps you know of some dry lakebeds around there that he may have gone to look at to set a new record? One that may be within the hour or two timeframe he was expected back?

Originally posted by johnlear  ATS POST ID 3485446

Thanks makeitso. I can't understand why anybody would use other than Bonneville for any record attempt. It doesn't make sense.

But the only other dry lake suitable would be Mud Lake down by the Tonopah Test Range. The northwestern corner of the Nellis Restricted R-4807A sticks about 3/4 of the way into the lakebed. (Or used to I lost my current Nellis Range chart a few months ago.)

Mud Lake was an emergency strip for the X-15 and was used by Darryl Greenamyer for the F-104 worlds speed record. But I don't know anybody that has used it for a land speed attempt.

Steve was pretty savy so I can't even imagine what happened to him or what kind of trouble he might have gotten into.

But I am hoping he is still with us and there is a good possiblity he is because the ELT did not activate.

Steve Fossett was looking for lake beds suitable for land speed record attempt

Tuesday, 04 September 2007

A spokesman for Steve Fossett has told BYM News that the record breaking yachtsman and aviator, flight out of the Hilton Ranch, in Nevada, yesterday, was a reconnaissance mission, over the desert. Fossett planned to fly over a number of lake beds, to find possible sites for his planned attempt on the world land speed record.

Fossett’s team still has high hopes that he is alive, telling BYM “We all know he’s been in tough situations before and come out of them, we’re hoping he’s going to walk out of the desert.”

The Steve Fossett website has gone down, as a result of an extraordinary number of hits, but work is going on to restore it as soon as possible.

Thirteen aircraft are now searching for the blue and white Citabria Super Decathlon plane. There is no indication as to why a signal has not been received from the plane’s emergency beacon.

SOURCE: BYM Marine & Maritime News

Originally posted by makeitso ATS POST ID 3485550

Thanks John,

I may have found the answer about Bonneville Flats question.  While first looking at Mono Lake and cross-referencing  with "land speed record"  I found the following:

The Bonneville Salt Flats are world-famous as the site where the land-speed record has been broken several times!

Unfortunately, there is concern that the amount of salt being deposited is decreasing dramatically. This has affected the racing surface and actually slowed down racers.  Eventually it may even require abandonment of the site as a speedway.

Some of the most recent land-speed record events, in fact, chose to do attempt their feat in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada partially because of this growing problem.


About mud lake.  It has been used for attempting the land speed record.  Hal Needham crashed there while attempting the record in '77.

Hal Needham - A Need for Speed

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Hals' great love for speed ultimately led him on a personal quest to become the first man to break the sound barrier on the ground. Hal launched his campaign to be the first man to break the sound barrier in Tonopah, Nevada with the H.M.I. Motivator. Needham drove to a top speed of 620 miles per hour. When the H.M.I. braking parachute failed at 350 miles per hour, Needham took a scary ride across the mud lake desert. Having not succeeded in breaking the sound barrier, Needham built a new rocket car, The Budweiser Rocket. Needham hired Stanley Barrett, his stuntman protege, to drive the Budweiser Rocket and the Needham Team headed for the Bonneville Salt Flats. 8 hair raising runs were made but the salt was to thin and the wheels would break through causing the car to tricycle and bounce across the salt bed. "The Needham Team" then decided on Edwards Air Force Base to make an assault on the Sound Barrier. On December 17, 1979, Stan Barrett drove Needham's Budweiser Rocket Car to a speed of 739.666 mph, which broke the Sound Barrier on the ground for the first time ever. The car was donated to the 'Smithsonian Institute where it is on display in the Aerospace Museum.


Fossett has extensive ties to No. Nevada
Posted: 9/4/2007

Tycoon adventurer and record-setting pilot and balloonist Steve Fossett was planning an assault on the land-speed record in Northern Nevada.

In late 2006, Fossett said he planned to smash the 763 mph record, rocketing up to 800 mph in a jet-powered vehicle on the Black Rock Desert.

The effort was to be based in Reno.

“This is surely the most dramatic of all world records, the oldest and most famous record in world motorsport,” Fossett said in a October 2006 news release. “I am very, very excited by the opportunity to meet this challenge — to drive through the speed of sound and reach 800 mph. This is a great goal — and we have the car to achieve it.”

The current land-speed record was set in 1997 in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert by Britain’s Andy Green, driving the twin-turbojet powered Thrust SSC.

The car Fossett was touting is a dart-shaped, 47-foot-long, 9,000-pound vehicle.
Power is provided by a single, after-burning J-79 turbojet developing 22,650 pounds of thrust, formerly fitted to a USAF F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber.

The car was originally designed and built by five-time land speed record-holder Craig Breedlove for an unsuccessful 1996/97 LSR campaign, and was undergoing chassis modifications and aerodynamic development under Fossett’s team in 2006. The effort was being led by project director and aerodynamicist Eric Ahlstrom.

Fossett made the first solo non-stop aircraft flight around the world between Feb. 28, 2005 and March 3, 2005, taking off from Salina, Kan., and flying eastbound, returning to Salina after 67 hours, one minute and 10 seconds without refuelling or making intermediate landings.

In December 2006, former land speed record holder Craig Breedlove, 70, said he sold his jet car — described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a winged rocket crouched on wheels” — to Fossett after his big sponsor, the National Guard, withdrew from Breedlove’s run at the land speed record because of the war in Iraq. Breedlove said at the time that he was “working with (Fossett) as a consultant, helping him get organized.” He said the rocket car was to be moved from Rio Vista, Calif., to a place in Reno, “closer to a venue (the Black Rock Desert) where it will be run.”


 Aided By Weather, Crews Resume Search For Steve Fossett
Wed, 05 Sep '07

Among the equipment being used to search for Fossett is ARCHER, high-tech hyperspectral imaging equipment capable of distinguishing between objects on the ground, according to Agence-France Presse. The Civil Air Patrol has deployed the imaging device onboard a plane flown in from Utah.

"ARCHER is essentially something used by the geosciences," CAP spokeswoman Major Cynthia Ryan said. "It's pretty sophisticated stuff ... beyond what the human eye can generally see."


Doug Robertson, Jr, copyrighted photo of N240R
Photo is from


Hotels in Space
1967 AAS Conference Proceedings
American Astronautical Society, AAS 67-126

HOTELS IN SPACE (Based on Preprint AAS 67-126)
Barron Hilton (President, Hilton Hotels Corporation) 

Barron Hilton on runway at Flying "M" ranch

Relevant Excerpt... Barron Hilton talks about Don Douglas Jr.

"Perhaps we'd better learn to walk before we run, so let's begin with the Orbiter Hilton. My friend Don Douglas, Jr., has been telling me about his company's concept of a space laboratory which would be 14 stories high and could comfortably accommodate up to 24 people. Personnel would arrive in a six man ferry craft.

As developed and expanded why couldn't this be the first orbiter Hilton? Perhaps the two organizations - Hilton and Douglas - could get together on a deal. Mr. Douglas could provide the orbiter hotels and we would franchise the Hilton name and know how to set up a chain of Hilton Douglas orbiter hotels.

These might be like Hilton Inns for short trips in space. They could accommodate brief stop-overs on a continuing journey to the moon or other planets. I should advise you - and I guess I'd better tell Mr. Douglas too - that an Orbiter Hilton is already in existence. It's known as "Hilton Space Station Number Five" and you'll be seeing it next fall in a motion picture called "2001 - A Space Odyssey". So I guess it behooves Mr. Douglas and me to get busy with our orbiters before somebody beats us to it." - Barron Hilton 1967  - AAS 67-126

Many people have asked "How does John know so much... Well above you see the document dated 1967 where Barron Hilton talks about Don Douglas Jr. and their plans for the Lunar Hilton back in 1967..

Barron Hilton has encouraged the sport of gliding through the Barron Hilton Cup since 1981. Pilots who have completed the longest triangular flights are invited from around the world, with their guests, by Barron Hilton for a week long soaring camp at the Flying-M-Ranch in Nevada. The objective is for the best pilots to get to know each other and to fly with some of the other best soaring pilots. - Wikipedia

John sent me this letter today (Sun Sept. 16, 2007) as I was finishing this page..

This was taken on April 9, 1966. I had flown Barron Hilton up
to see Donald Douglas, Jr.. I was flying number 100 Learjet

N 427 LJ.


John Lear at the Flying M Ranch 1966
John Lear at the Flying M Ranch 1966

The ranch was named the Flying-M by its previous owner, Stanfield Murphy. Mr. Hilton said he did not change the name because his wife, who died in 2004, was named Marilyn.

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