Fossett Succumbed to Mountain Downdrafts: NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that mountain downdrafts-as strong as 400 feet per minute-exceeded the climb capability of Steve Fossett's borrowed Bellanca Decathlon. He crashed into the side of a mountain in eastern California after taking off from a friend's ranch airstrip for a pleasure flight. High density altitude (estimated at 13,000 feet) at the 10,000-foot-elevation crash site was also a factor in the September 3, 2007 accident. The climb capability of the airplane was estimated at 300 feet per minute under existing conditions. Despite a massive search effort, the wreckage and Fossett's remains weren't located until more than a year later, when a hiker found cash and some of Fossett's personal papers near Mammoth Lakes, California on October 7, 2008. The wreckage of the Bellanca was found about a half mile away, and human remains were identified as those of Fossett. Click here to read the NTSB's final report.