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Identity

The Fast and the Curious

By Eli Saslow

SPARKS, Nevada

Steve Fossett wanted to experiment with endurance, so he ran 100 miles through the Rocky Mountains and swam across the English Channel. He wanted to explore dangerous extremes, so he circumnavigated the globe in a sailboat, a jet-engine plane and a giant balloon. For the better part of 63 years, he sought out adventures that nobody ever had accomplished and then checked them off, building a legacy that included 115 world records and yet still left him wanting.

Until he came here.

In the months before his plane disappeared on a routine pleasure flight over western Nevada, Fossett often traveled to a corporate warehouse on the outskirts of Reno to prepare for an assault on a record more prominent than any he owned. He wanted to move faster than anyone ever had across land, but that was only the beginning of it. While visiting this gigantic garage, Fossett imagined setting a land speed record so extraordinary that it would become a benchmark in human innovation. A sign leaning against a wall in the front office of the warehouse betrayed his aspirations. Speed Limit: 1,000 mph.

Every few weeks, Fossett flew here from his home in Beaver Creek, Colo., to visit the jet-engine car he purchased and the team he assembled to refine it. The machine's white-paneled body extended 48 feet and weighed almost 10,000 pounds. To first-time visitors, it looked like a missile lying flat on its stomach -- a comparison that only hinted at its power.

When Fossett came to Sparks, he often changed into a one-piece black racing suit and put on a helmet. He contorted his body and sucked in his stomach so he could fit into a cockpit no bigger than a coffin, elevated only 10 inches off the ground. Two crew members strapped Fossett into a nine-point harness, and he stared out through the car's half-inch-thick windshield. Fossett sometimes sat there for hours and imagined sparking a 30-foot flame by firing the ignition, covering a mile in four seconds and then slowing down by releasing parachutes manufactured for nuclear weapons.

He believed it would be the most dangerous adventure of his life, because history held no precedent for what such speed entailed. Would the driver experience tunnel vision akin to temporary blindness? Could a quarter-size rock on the race course knock the car off-balance? Would the human body withstand the G-forces of accelerating at 40 mph each second?

As he prepared to confront the unknown, Fossett agreed to be featured in a series of Washington Post articles about the nature of competition. During a succession of e-mail and telephone conversations for the piece, he discussed goals and fears that were fatefully intertwined. Fossett's crew already had identified seven mechanical flaws that would have killed him. They delayed three speed trials last summer because the car remained too hazardous to drive.

In August, Fossett made a final visit to the warehouse to talk with the crew and check the car's condition. He had tired of scheduling test sessions only to cancel them a few weeks later, so Fossett implored his crew chief to finish the car before winter weather made driving impossible and delayed the project for another six months. Fossett left Sparks intent on taking the car outside in late September or early October.

"There's nothing I can do but be patient," Fossett said in one interview last summer. "But the longer I wait, the more excited and eager I am to really experience this and drive. Imagination can only take you so far."

***

[Photos]
PHOTO GALLERY | A Life of Pursuit

Fossett said his greatest achievements still waited ahead, but he conceded that they would have to be different in scope. His hair had thinned and turned gray, and time had rounded out his face and midsection. He spoke in quiet, measured sentences and cocked his head sideways while listening. Late in his life, Fossett looked less like an athlete than a retired stock trader. No longer could he cross-country ski for 20 hours without stopping or go three consecutive nights without sleep. So, in the twilight of his career, Fossett searched for a new kind of challenge.

He never had considered retiring altogether. Without a major goal, Fossett asked, what else would occupy him? His life had unfolded for so long in a series of sporting exploits that Fossett and his achievements had fused together, a life story told in records and numbers.

On their second date, Fossett asked his eventual wife of 39 years to ride in his plane while he competed in an air show. He swam to Alcatraz in college, climbed the highest peak on six continents and finished the Ironman triathlon. In between adventures, he graduated from Stanford and started his own business. After making a personal fortune as a financial trader, he retired in 1990 and moved to Beaver Creek, where he could focus on setting records full-time.

[Info]

For most of his adventures, Fossett learned a new sport, studied it to become an expert and then procured the best equipment possible. Fossett watched the Iditarod for five years before deciding to buy 27 dogs in 1992. He lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, to train for several months and eventually finished that year's race.

When Fossett became interested in speed sailing, he built a world-class boat and set 23 records from 1993 to 2004, including the circumnavigation of the world in just more than 58 days. He spent $17 million on a Cessna Citation X jet and flew across the United States, from San Diego to South Carolina, in less than three hours. In a glider plane, he climbed to 50,727 feet -- an absolute-altitude record, even though Fossett momentarily passed out when his oxygen mask malfunctioned.

He remained most proud of his records in ballooning, because they were the hardest to earn. It took Fossett six attempts to become the first person to circle the globe alone in a balloon, a 14-day journey during which he averaged three hours of sleep. One of Fossett's failed attempts ended when his balloon was caught in a storm at 29,000 feet and plummeted into the Coral Sea, where his capsule caught fire. He survived the fall and floated on a life raft in his long underwear for 23 hours during a thunderstorm. Finally, a sailor passed by and rescued him.

"I've learned that with the right preparation and response," Fossett once said, "you can survive almost anything."

Speed driving appealed to Fossett because it offered a plethora of numerical records, many of which had not been broken for a decade or longer. Even as he approached his mid-60s, Fossett said during a July phone conversation that he still could drive competitively for another 10 years. Age had robbed him of once-legendary endurance, but Fossett still felt capable of harnessing his effort in short, manic bursts. He could operate almost any machine for 30 minutes at a time, and speed records rarely required more.

Fossett had limited experience as a racecar driver, so he traveled to Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 2006 to test his aptitude. On a dry lake bed, Fossett borrowed a friend's modified car and pushed it faster than 300 mph on his second run. He climbed out of the cockpit, beaming, with the vague idea of breaking the 1997 land speed record of 763 mph.

He decided to pursue that mark officially a few months later. Craig Breedlove, a pioneer in land speed racing, had built a car that he planned to sell, and Fossett seized the opportunity. Breedlove had driven the jet-engine machine to 675 mph in 1996 before it skidded and flipped on its side. Miraculously, Breedlove had emerged unscathed, but the car had suffered considerable damage. With no sponsorship money to fix it, Breedlove eventually started to look for a buyer.

By the time Fossett showed interest, the machine had spent almost 10 years gathering rust in a moldy shop next to Breedlove's home in Rio Vista, Calif. Still, convinced of its potential, Fossett bought the car for an undisclosed amount and sought Breedlove's advice in assembling a team of technicians led by rocket scientist Eric Ahlstrom.

Fossett's friends lamented the purchase. He had built his reputation on records that measured in weeks, not seconds, and had survived by selecting adventures with limited risk. The land speed record was one of the world's most dangerous, credited with more accidents than successes. When he confided his plans to friend Richard Branson, the British tycoon warned that Fossett should author his autobiography first. Otherwise, he might not get the chance to write it.

[Info]

It was a measured risk Fossett decided he could accept. He prided himself on his sporting versatility, with records set in five sports, and a driving record would further diversify his résumé. Plus, the land speed record came with more historical significance than any of Fossett's previous accomplishments. With one blistering race across the earth, he could fortify his legacy.

"With any undertaking as big as this, there is a significant measure of risk," Fossett said last summer. "But we are talking about holding one of the world's absolute records. That's a significant reward."

***

They never imagined the project would become so complicated. When Ahlstrom first visited Rio Vista and surveyed the car in Breedlove's shop, the scientist estimated it was already 75 percent ready to run. With six men and 12 months, Ahlstrom told Fossett, the car could be back in record-setting condition.

Ahlstrom, 46, moved the car into the warehouse near his house in Sparks, where he started to find problems faster than his team of welders and mechanics could fix them. He hired five people . . . then seven . . . then nine . . . then 12. They ordered a jet engine from a shop that was due in January, but the shop didn't finish it until April. Fuel leaked out of the 110-gallon gas tank. Tangled wires caused steering controls to malfunction.

Fossett sent daily e-mails to the warehouse and visited it about once every two weeks, but he largely entrusted the project to Ahlstrom. In a sport once dominated by hot rodders, scientists had engineered the last three land speed record cars, and Ahlstrom fit that qualification. His father had been a professor of aeronautics and an executive at Boeing, and Ahlstrom had worked on airplanes and other projects for the Department of Defense. He wore tight jeans and leather jackets. Sometimes, lost in thought, he drew mathematical equations on napkins or twirled a lug nut between his middle and forefinger like a cigarette.

"I despise being wrong," Ahlstrom said, "and I've been wrong a couple of times each week during this project. In everything we do, we have been willing to make a mistake and change direction. Nobody has written the guidebook on how to do this. We're the test monkeys."

Every problem Ahlstrom resolved led to five new ones. His team searched for a place to drive the car and eventually settled on a dry lake bed spanning 13 miles at the end of a dirt road in central Nevada. That meant a cook needed to be hired for Fossett and the team, because no restaurants or stores existed nearby. Two crew members spent six months building a custom-fitted trailer to transport the car. The trailer ended up weighing too much under Nevada highway restrictions, so another team member coordinated a special driving route with the help of state officials.

Just when Ahlstrom thought, finally, that his team would be able to make the location work, he learned that 12 endangered snowy plover birds sometimes nested in the lake bed, which meant the car would only be allowed into the area during certain months. Also, Ahlstrom would have to find 10 people willing to spend two weeks clearing the surface of rocks and pebbles that posed a threat to the car. More officials would need to be hired later to certify the course and time record attempts.

[Graphic]

Ahlstrom figured it would take between 50 and 70 practice runs to get the car in shape for a record attempt. He planned three week-long testing sessions with an idle month between each to make adjustments to the car. Fossett agreed to begin driving the car at about 200 mph and build steadily to 700 before attacking the record.

While he waited for his team to ready the car, Fossett kept himself busy with other pursuits. He traveled to four continents to fly his glider plane, chasing the best wind patterns. He bought a helicopter with his sights set on records for that aircraft, and he began conceiving a submarine capable of exploring undiscovered ocean depths. But Fossett also made it clear the car remained his priority. "As soon as it's ready to drive," he said during a telephone call in August, "I'll be there to drive it."

"More coordination and effort goes into this than you could ever imagine, and Steve was appreciative of that," Ahlstrom said. "Sometimes he got anxious. All of us did. But the last thing he wanted was to drive a car that wasn't ready. He would call and I would explain the setbacks, and he usually understood."

Ahlstrom was prepared for a similar conversation when one of Fossett's representatives called him on the first Tuesday of September. Instead, the scientist answered the phone in the Sparks warehouse and heard that his boss was missing. The details confounded Ahlstrom: One of the most decorated pilots in aviation history had disappeared shortly after taking off alone from a friend's ranch near Yerington, Nev. He had been flying no faster than 160 mph in a single-engine propeller plane on a clear day.

The next morning, Ahlstrom gathered three team members and went to Yerington to assist with the search. Like hundreds of other pilots, he flew across the high desert and scanned for plane wreckage among the Sierra Nevada mountains, boulder fields and playas strewn with sagebrush. Because Fossett had been flying a plane that was both fragile and flammable -- a craft made primarily from wood, cloth and aluminum tubing -- Ahlstrom searched the landscape for scattered remnants or burn marks.

After several days with little sleep and no results, Ahlstrom returned to Sparks and coordinated search tips sent in by e-mail. He received more than 200 messages each day from Internet users who scanned satellite images of Nevada for clues of Fossett's plane. In the first two weeks, the search effort located evidence of six previous plane crashes -- none of them Fossett's.

As the search dissipated, Ahlstrom told his team to maintain its regular schedule of 10-hour days spent working on the car.

"We're working for the world's greatest boy scout, so you never know if he's going to walk back in here," Ahlstrom told the crew. "We're going ahead with 100 percent effort until anybody tells us otherwise."

***

On the last Tuesday morning in November, Ahlstrom gathered his crew in the warehouse for a weekly meeting. Almost three months had passed since Fossett's disappearance, but little had changed in Sparks. The paneled exterior of the car sat in a heap on the concrete, exposing a turbine and afterburner that still required work. Eleven employees wore winter hats and jackets in the unheated garage. Many of them held coffee cups in one hand and mechanical tools in the other.

"Another busy week," Ahlstrom told the group. "Remember, we want to do our engine test about 10 days from now. There's a lot of work ahead of us, and we've got to be ready. I'm not going to waste your time. You know what you have to do."

The night before, Fossett's wife, Peggy, had asked the courts to declare her husband dead -- a development that fueled insecurity in Sparks. Some of Fossett's crew wondered how much longer they would have jobs. Peggy had continued to fund the team at her discretion, communicating with Ahlstrom through occasional e-mails. But Ahlstrom planned to search for outside sponsors who could contribute to the budget.

Ahlstrom had also begun a search for the next driver. He hoped to find a graduate of the Navy or Air Force test pilot school, someone with experience traveling at supersonic speeds. More than anything, Ahlstrom wanted a driver with experience working at the cutting edge of technology who would be willing to accept the risks inherent in discovery. When Ahlstrom explained the project to outsiders, he refused to refer to the car as a prototype.

"It's what scientists call a proof of concept," Ahlstrom said. "We still can't be sure what works until we drive it."

Ahlstrom had outlined a plan to begin testing the car in February, with a record attempt possible as early as July or August. In case potential drivers hesitated to stake their life to the project, Ahlstrom had roughly prepared a sales pitch:

Here, Ahlstrom believed, was a chance to move across the earth faster than any person in history, alone in the driver's seat on the last record Steve Fossett would ever help set.

Transcript: Monday, December 10
» Eli Saslow was online to answer questions about this installment.

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His greatest achievement of all is surely a marriage of 39 years to the same woman. Thanks for this excellent article about a truly remarkable man, who lived every day to its absolute fullest. Steve Fossett is an inspiration to everyone.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 06:30 AM

Yes, let us lionize the rich. They are truly awesome!

Glad you're dead, Steve!

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 10:46 AM

"I've learned that with the right preparation and response," Fossett once said, "you can survive almost anything".

Maybe Steve was not thoroughly prepared for his latest challenge....but I believe if he landed on his feet he is surviving well, perhaps holed-up in a cave or an abandoned mine. "Right response" Maybe we failed him there by not looking at the right places ...IMO we seem to be trusting too much on conjecture as to where to look!

An engineer, highly trained in the cellular phone technology, wrote to me that we involuntarily leave a footprint; by the ("handover") data that is constantly gleaned from the subscribers handsets which makes this technology work. This data, even if limited can give hint or backtrack our physical movements for the investigators to aim their absolute area of interest.

I hope some one of authority may pickup this idea and introduce its feasibility.

Praying that he did carry a handset with him.

Great article...its a keeper in my album file!

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 11:02 AM

nice one...steve fosset inspires the adventurer and risk taker in each one of us!
i am sure he had no regrets coz he most certainly lived his life to the fullest...each moment of it!!....long live STEVE!!

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 11:25 AM

Is this a feature story?

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 01:18 PM

Great article Eli!

Still wondering over the tight jeans and leather and the lug nuts though...also it's not a warehouse, it's a shop.

We miss Steve dreadfully. For those of us priviledged to know him, he was an amazing impressive and humble man of spectacular achievement- self made in every way possible.

We will not know another like him in our lifetimes, and the team is dedicated to taking the record in his memory.

Eric's wife

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 01:20 PM

What about his carbon footprint!? for those who can swallow the dogma. He wasted his life. A poor soul after all.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 02:15 PM

He had endless amounts of money and didn't need to hold a job like the rest of us. He wasn't truely a skilled adventurer. Just some superrich guy who could pay for the right toys. Nobody worth admiring.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 02:31 PM

I posted the first comment above, praising Fossett for his dedication to his wife and his accomplishments. The second posting was some snarky jibe, saying good riddance. Until I read this article, all I knew about Fossett was the 15-second evening news clips announcing his latest high-profile activities. It was easy to dismiss him as an overgrown kid playing with seriously expensive toys. But this article rounded out my impression of him. Though he appears to have died doing what he loved, ht's clear he has family and friends who miss him. Wouldn't we all love to be fabulously rich, travel the globe having fun? Sure. Could some of that money been put to better use? Absolutely, though the article doesn't discuss his charitable contributions. But before anyone criticizes him, I only ask that they swim to Alcatraz and across the English Channel.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 05:03 PM

How can a human being be so hateful that they would rejoice over the death of another human being? I suppose you want to come spit on his family too(since, at this time there is no grave to spit upon). Steve was born to an average middle-class family. He worked hard all his life and his accomplishments are a testimony to a strong and brilliant spirit. We, his family, are mourning a great loss and the snarky comments are an offense to us all.

Posted by: Jeanne Dansby | December 9, 2007 05:42 PM

It is amazing to may how callous some people can be on this blog. A man is presumably dead and even if he is uber-wealthy, Type A to the nth power, and larger than life to most people, does that give license to denigrate and disrepect someone who has accomplished so much in the name of human triumph? The man is legendary -- not was, is -- and the nature of his accomplishments is such that men will look to Steve Fossett and say that there is a man who did not waste his human potential. I hope that he is not gone for I would like to see his next great adventure but if he has already gone on to the last great adventure that any of us can take, I hope that people will read (or hear) of this story and be inspired by a man who dared to look at the art of the possible and say to himself, "I can do it!"

Greg

Posted by: Greg Schuckman | December 9, 2007 05:45 PM

Ms. Dansby, my condolences to you and your family on your loss. Pay little attention to the "snarky comments" for I expect that they come from small people who are jealous of the many triumphs that your Steve had throughout his magnificent life.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 05:50 PM

I guess I'm going to join the snarky side but for years I've been looking askance at all those people in "Outside" magazine. All the summiting of Everest (which has become old hat now) and other uber sports. Fossett's exploits fall into this category of trying to do something that proves....proves what? Uh, that he's a thrill seeker!!! and that's the ultimate...uh, because it's there... something! Likewise, speed records used to mean something when it was a mesurement of technolical achievement. a new speed record might somehow accord to better and faster cars in the marketplace. However, strapping a jet on your back does not. I doubt there is any aspect of jet design that has not already been explored in aircraft design.

No I am not an admirer of his "achievement of the human spirit" It seems more like an ego trip, something you would do to attract women. And five "sports" records? That's kinda like those equestrians in the Olympics who get a gold medal, not exactly a ton of competition, like say, basketball.

As someone else mentioned, he is an admirable man for his 39 year marriage and his successful business. If he has hobbies, fine, but I don't need to hear about them

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 06:39 PM

Count me among the snarky/realistic when I write that I, too, would have been a great adventurer if I were rich or if I could find someone to bankroll my leisure activities. Then right now you might be reading about ME, and MY fabulous ascent of Everest, or MY meaningless land speed record.

I admire people who stay married for 39 years, through the thick and the thin of a normal life that is not filled with fame and riches, but filled with the sort of everyday challenges that 99 percent of the world's population have to address.

How much time and money were wasted on his search earlier this fall? What a pathetic society we have become when people such as Fossett are regarded as "heroes."

Posted by: castanea | December 9, 2007 07:01 PM

Regarding the comment on equestrians in the Olympics, I challenge you to train as hard as those athletes do and then not call it a sport. I gather from your comments that you would rather valorize a "true" athlete in a conventional sport such as basketball than those people who push their physical limits in something less commercial. Who are you to judge the athleticism of somebody who appears in the pages of "Outside" magazine as opposed to "Sports Illustrated"?
Also, how is chasing the record for land speed no longer a measure of technological innovation? You really lost me there! As the article emphasizes, there was a team of highly trained engineers, headed by rocket scientist Eric Ahlstrom, crafting the technology that might allow this new feat. This was hardly a scenario of "strapping a jet to your back".

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 07:24 PM

I think what people are mad about is simply the sick nature our economic / financial system. The worker bees can barely survive these days, while the financial types get to play golf and speculate on the labor of others. The scam is getting to be ridiculous, as well as insidious.

The "snarky" posters have no right to be mean, but they have every right to mad as all get out.

But a fine article about an exceptional man, nonetheless.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 07:25 PM

Quit hating. He earned his money and deserved to do what he wants. How insensitive to his family you are to leave a comment like you are glad he is dead. That is just plain hateful.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 07:52 PM

Quit being a moron. No one is above reproach for how they earn their money and how they choose to spend it. People who lead wasteful lifestyles should be called on it.

The person who made the "glad he's dead" comment was writing in poor taste, though.

Posted by: castanea | December 9, 2007 08:09 PM

Mr. Steve Fossett Lives - his Family will have Him back soon! And as for those
snarky un-human types, they are the product of their own slanted / negative thoughts.
Tsk, tsk and etc.

Posted by: Ed Guerrero | December 9, 2007 08:14 PM

I bet he never thought he would be dead during one of his adventures. He paid the price when he pushed the boundary. Sooner or later you'll be dead if you push the boundary too hard.

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 08:25 PM

Funny we do not critize ourselves as losers when we we fail without trying,but grasp the opertunity to persecute others who try

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 09:35 PM

Excellent article.

It made it clear that the man made his own money by going into business. He married the woman who was a willing partner in his extreme exploits. He had extreme ideas, and enjoyed pursuing them.

Could he have sent all his money to Mother Teresa or Oxfam? I suppose.

But he had fun. He lived his life well, took care of himself and his family, hired people to do interesting jobs and paid them fair wages.

I'll bet he was a heck of a guy to sit next to at a dinner party. :)

Why some people feel the need to put down a successful, happy, energetic person with extreme goals and the talent and commitment to succeed, is completely beyond me. Until I read this article, I didn't know much of anything about the man behind the "stunts" I had read about over the years. I am happy to read a fuller, deeper article here in the post.

Good work.

Posted by: Shoe | December 9, 2007 10:35 PM

Teddy Roosevelt said it best:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Steve Fossett epitomized the man who knows great enthusiasms and dares greatly.

Posted by: Brian | December 9, 2007 10:38 PM

Is Steve Fossette really dead?

Hard to believe!

How much was he insured for?

Posted by: | December 9, 2007 10:46 PM

Steve Fossett has been a man who probably considered himself one of the luckiest men alive, if anyone would ask him.
He was also born of another era, an era of risk-taking that very few people today understand.
He is invested in a roll call of champions, who risk to achieve daring feats.
I have always admired him and envied him the opportunity to pursue so many records that will live for many years.
The story of his life is remarkable and entertaining.
He's gone down as I'm sure he would have wanted, with, as we say in Texas, his boot-straps firmly in place.
What an ending -- he vanished into the mists of memory in one of the most beautiful, wild places on the North American continent.
I know this has been monumentally hard on his family; the not-knowing.
But wherever he is, it can be said that on a crisp, clear sunny morning, whatever he saw at the last was beautiful and mysterious. And for him, I'm so glad for that.
He will, like Wilber and Orville Wright, like Columbus, like our astronauts, always live in search of the next frontier.

Posted by: Judy in the Big Thicket of Texas | December 10, 2007 12:12 AM

I suspect that those who knew him best would probably tell you that at some point his exploits became less about the knowledge he could attain, technology developed and share...and more about him and his need to feed his ego, to maintain his self-esteem. Someone to admire? Probably. A hero? I can't go that far.

Posted by: | December 10, 2007 01:18 PM

Great article. I am an aircraft mechanic that has worked with Steve for the last 10 years on his plane. In all that time I have never met a more humble and truly appreciative person. He showed everyone respect and trusted you with his life on the decisions and work we performed on his plane. Heck, we accomplished a major inspection on his plane prior to going around the world, when I asked if he wanted to do a test flight, he wondered why, because he had complete confidence in what we did. He fueled it up and went on the trip. When he returned from the trip all the plane required was a quart of oil in each engine. He always treated my family and co-workers not as service providers but as friends and members of his family. We will truly miss him and think of him daily. He is an inspiration to us all on what hard work and a dream can achieve.

Posted by: Mike in Wichita | December 11, 2007 08:24 AM

A world of thanks to Mike in Wichita for
his inspiring personal testimony about his
long term association with Mr. Fossett.
Mike's witness certainly clinches what our
family thinks about Steve's personal qualities.

Posted by: Ed Guerrero | December 11, 2007 10:57 AM

I don't think that at heart Steve Fossett was all that different than who any of us could be. If anything he is the epitome of the American dream. For he had dreams and he worked hard in his younger years so he could have the money to accomplish those dreams of exploration, adventure, and advancement.

Steve Fosset went out and set records because he didn't feel we, as a human society, should be held back by the limits placed on us by our past preformance, which should be admired or at the very least respected.

Mr. Fosset did what humans have been doing for the last tens of thousands of years. "We came out of the cave and we looked over the hill,and we saw fire. We crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the West, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on the timeline of exploration," and Steve Fosset was simply doing what was next.

For that he will remain an inspiration for generations to come. Fossett will settle himself amongst Columbus, Cortez, Neil Armstrong, Lewis & Clark, Bering, Perry, Cook, Livingston, and the Wright Brothers. We don't question any of their accomplishements why should we question Fossett's? And we shouldn't simply because even if Fosset had never accomplished the feat of setting a record, Fosset would have still inspired us to keep striving for what is next.

Posted by: Ashley Howard | December 11, 2007 11:00 AM

I challenge anyone who has used snarky comments about Fosset's use of his fortune, or the more generalized critique of the modern day financial system, to go out and purchase a copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. You will quickly see that a society lived by to each according to his ability, to each according to his need, will ultimately fail, because there is no motivation for innovation or competition or simply doing your job.

The very fact that Fossett was able to go out and do the things he did is the very upitimization of the capitalist structure. It is a good thing, without which there would be no innovation, no arts, no research, or medical break throughs. And at the end who are we to judge, for none of us know where the next great idea will come from, where innovation of thought will lead us. Vacines, Penicillin, X-Rays, scotchguard, post-it-notes, velcro, superglue, even the popsicle were all accidental discoveries.

As the American physicist Joseph Henry once noted, "The seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take root in minds well prepared to receive them."

Posted by: | December 11, 2007 02:04 PM

Loved the article. I suggest that some of the earlier comments fall into the category of "personal attacks and inappropriate comments" and should thus be removed in the name of good taste. To say that another's life is not what you would choose is one thing; to say that it is invalid, wasteful or indulgent seems to me to be a personal attack. Before someone starts, this is not a free speech issue--this is a privately owned forum, and the rules are stated above.

For those who also loved the article, may I highly recommend Richard Branson's autobiography, Losing my Virginity. Amazing story, lively read, ultimate poor student to super entrepreneur with heart story!

- Barclay

Posted by: | December 16, 2007 11:49 AM

I admire anyone who tries to show the world what is possible. Anyone who achieves seemingly impossible feats, goals, and dreams pushes the human race further ahead in evolution. We are evolving after all! Why? Because of the people who had the strength, courage, and bravery to accomplish what they believed in throughout history. Fossett is definitely one of these great important historic figures of our race! He should be embraced by all of us, just like all of our past heros and prominent historic figures. His success economically should only be viewed as something we should all respect. Fossett succeeded financially and athletically on his own! He was an awesome man, one who deserves our respect and praise. Fossett showed us who we can be and what we can achieve as hard working people. I hope one day all the jealous people who ignorantly discredit him with their comments and posts will one day realize they really just wish they could've had the will power to be something more. I was lucky enough to have worked for him and met him in my life. I embrace him for giving me more determination to succeed in my own personal dreams and goals. Just as I embrace all that I have learned from my time spent working on his land speed record car and all the wonderful and intelligent people I met during that time, especially Eric Ahlstrom. I wish I could've told Steve thanks for just being who he was. ...And Eric if you ever read this, thanks to you as well, you taught me a lot. I wish I could've found him went I went to look for him instead of having an accident myself.

Sincerely,
Kimberly Cradler

Posted by: | December 18, 2007 11:10 PM

Those interested in another lcation for steve fosset are invited to look at my video on you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcSzcXYTcBQ

there are a couple of other videos of mine there as well showing the reasons for this location and I feel its the general area steve fossett will be found, I dont feel the intel was accurate in this case and was a lot of speculation and elemination of possible areas to search due to faulty logic. truthfully there really wasnt any intel of any great value and that is why other methods had to be used to try and find him in time

all this was presented on and after 11 sep to just about everyone involved in this search ...8 days after steve went down

also please see my video 3 google earth views of loaction whlle you there at youtube

Posted by: | January 7, 2008 11:54 PM

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