Thanks For The Visit !
James Stephen "Steve" Fossett
1944 - 2008
The month of September marks the first anniversary that the world of aviation lost one of the greats, James Stephen Fossett, otherwise known as Steve Fossett. He was an adventurer and an explorer of the highest degree. His disappearance a year ago is reason enough to write about the man, but what truly motivated me to write this article, was a conversation that I was having a few months back with someone that had never heard of him. So, for those of you who have never heard of Steve Fossett, I hope that you enjoy this article about the man and his exploits.
Steve was born in Jackson, Tennessee, but the Fossett family moved to Garden Grove, California, where he grew up. Being a Boy Scout was an excellent start for any young, “would-be” explorer, and so started the adventurous life of the young Steve Fossett. As a Boy Scout, he went on to claim the highest rank, that of Eagle Scout. Steve had said back in 2006 that Scouting was the most important activity of his youth. Having been a Boy Scout myself, I could not agree more. At the age of twelve, he had climbed his first mountain, and literally never stopped. Sports that required endurance were the order of the day for Fawcett. For the records that he would later in life go on to set, endurance would always play a key role. As a young college student at Stanford University, California, his friends talked him into swimming out to Alcatraz, and unfurl a banner on the walls of the old prison, saying “Beat Cal”, a rival football team. I can personally vouch for the fact that the water in the San Francisco Bay is cold!
Having earned a degree in economics, Fawcett worked in the financial world for a few years and then went on to start his own firm. His success in the world of big business enabled him to finally live his former, adventurous lifestyle, and eventually allowed him time to pursue the “interesting things in life”.
Fawcett was a sailor, balloonist, explorer, and an exceptional aviator. We’ll of course, just focus on the aviation aspect of his life for this article, but suffice it to say that there are many records that have been set in all of his “hobbies”. As an aviator, he made, as well as broke numerous records. Fossett and co-pilot Terry Delore held 10 of the 21 Glider Open records. An incredible accomplishment! Fawcett held records as a jet pilot as well, flying a Cessna Citation X. Fossett also held records in four classes of aircraft, a feat that no other pilot has ever accomplished.
Although any of these records are certainly very noteworthy, most would remember Fossett for his successful non-stop, circumnavigation of the world in the history making Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. The Global Flyer was specifically designed and built for these record breaking attempts, the first of which took place out of Salina, Kansas on, March 03, 2005. Aviator and designer Burt Rutan and his Scaled Composites Team created the unorthodox Global Flyer for this attempt. Salina served as both the take-off and landing site for the Global Flyer. The University there provided the invaluable ground support for this mission. Sir Richard Branson was a very close friend of Steve’s as well, and supported his efforts with whole hearted enthusiasm. A good friend indeed it would seem. They were often seen together in the media, Branson more often than not dumping champagne on Fossett’s head after some incredible record had been set. This incredible flight was flown in a record 67 hours and one minute, non-stop and without refueling. The second record breaking flight of the Global Flyer took place in February of 2006 with
the longest ever nonstop and unrefueled flight of 76 hours and 45 minutes, with a distance flown of 26,389 miles. The previous record was held by Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, aboard the Voyager in 1986 (24,987 miles flown).
The public was kept aware of the circumstances and the search efforts not only in the news media, but on Fossett’s site itself. Monday, the third of September 2007 saw Steve Fossett taking off in a Bellanca Super Decathlon, from the Flying M Ranch, near Yerington, Nevada. He was using the private strip of hotel magnate Barron Hilton. Speculations as to what he was doing ran from a joy-ride to a flight in search of a suitable area for yet another record breaking attempt, this time, a ground speed record. No flight plans were submitted that day, and it was reported that he left his usual “flight kit” back in his room, perhaps not intending to be gone for long.
One of aviations biggest search and rescue operations turned up no clues as to Fawcett’s disappearance. Many innovative methods were used in the search for this legendary aviator, including satellite pictures of the area reviewed by thousands over the internet. In fact, this search turned up a few crash sites other than the one they were looking for, some dating back to the sixties or so. Many of the locals in the area had commented on how hard it would be to find any wreckage from the air or from vehicles. The mountain range in the search area is riddled with deep, narrow canyons and ravines, making the search even more difficult. The winds of the area are another factor to be reckoned with, and are known for being sudden and severe.
In all, Steve Fossett had set 93 world records in aviation, which were given the official nod by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Just thinking of sitting in that small cockpit, for that amount of time, is enough to make me want to get up from the keyboard and take a walk….OK, I’m back! Steve Fawcett not only went after and captured these records once, but went on to repeat some of his feats. There is no denying that the man had drive and passion. His crews and support teams surely shared these attributes, as success is more often than not, a team effort. Pure assumption on my part, but I bet he was the type of guy, that if you were around him long enough, you would probably find yourself caught up in his dreams and ideas. I personally can’t help but be inspired by the man and his achievements. Inspiration is something that can endure long after the source is gone.
As a balloonist, he held many titles, including round-the-world records. Why stop there? Being on the water instead of being in the air, did not mean he couldn’t go after a title or two in this arena, and so he did. To be honest, I just can’t figure out where he found the time to do all these things! One of the things he had said was that he hoped to inspire others to achieve their own personal dreams and goals. Fossett showed us through his life’s accomplishments that whatever is out there, if you have a desire for it, it is certainly possible to make it a reality. Man oh man; did this guy have desire or what? I’ve simply touched very briefly on Steve’s accomplishments. Even though Steve Fossett is no longer with us, his site is still available with loads of interesting information and you can read the incredibly long list of records that the man had broken. It can be found at www.stevefossett.com.
His remains and aircraft wreckage has since been found, not far from where a hiker initially found documents with Fossett's name on them. One of the documents was his pilot's certification. Preliminary findings point toward a crash into the side of the mountain. Weather for that day had clouds. Causes for the crash are still unknown. As of this writing, the investigation continues as to what may have happened that fateful Monday in September of 2007.
The world of aviation, indeed, the entire world lost an incredibly brave and talented man that inspired others with his actions and accomplishments. Today, more than ever, we need people like Steve Fossett, brave, determined, but, most importantly, a person with dreams and ambition.
The Global Flyer I used for this article is a freeware model, made by “Dave” over at WoWAir. The site as well as any contact information for “Dave” seems to be history, as there are no active links for email or to visit. The file name is globfl.zip, which I had downloaded two or three years ago. I did a search for the file and came up with a Japanese site linking folks to Flightsim.com, where there was no such file to be found. It still may be floating around out there somewhere. I would put it on my own site over at Farmboyzim’s Flight Sim’s, but permission is needed to upload the model, and I don’t want to step on any toes.
The model itself was developed with Gmax, and is very well made. The exterior model looks great and is an extremely close replica of the real Flyer. It certainly is an interesting aircraft to look at! The 2D panel is clean and functional, and the model includes a VC view as well. Wing-tip flex, braking parachutes, as well as other animations are included, and all combine to make a great little model.
You get both the 2D cockpit, as well as a VC environment. Both are functional, but I found the 2D panel better to use (I'm just an old fashioned simmer I guess!). I could not find an Autothrottle switch, so you may want to assign a button or key for this operation. Very nice work space, if not a bit cramped!
There was one problem that happens randomly upon loading up of the aircraft…it sometimes loads in an extreme “nose-down” attitude, even more than it's normal "rakish" angle, basically with its nose buried in the runway. Does not happen all the time but when it does, just reset the flight and it should correct itself. I have not taken this particular model around the “Virtual World” yet, but as far as making it all the way around, in the model, unrefueled, will be something that you can figure out. Do the math!
The model handles slow, which is probably a pretty accurate assumption, as she was not made to “turn and burn”. It is very slow to accelerate on take-off, perhaps as slow as a knot a second as it gains speed, but lifts off at about 105 to 110 knots. You will need a runway at least 6500 feet or so in length to get this bird off the ground. There are some interesting documents included about Steve Fossett and the Global Flyer included in the file, as well as a handy PDF manual explaining some of the functions of the model. Overall, this is a great freeware model, and I wish it was readily available to all other simmers. I’m, sure if you do an intensive search, you will find the file. If you think this may not be a fun way to spend some time, remember all the great sites that you will find while searching! A little side perk to searching!
In conclusion, I just want to say that even though it has been a year since the disappearance of Steve, the loss to the aviation world can still be felt. He is still a great example for people to follow, brave, dedicated, with a “can-do” attitude that seems to be in short supply these days. If there are any records to be made or broken in the place where Steve Fossett is at now, I am quite sure that he is already busting a few of them!
Fly high and long Steve, wherever you are!