Famed Aviator Fossett's Remains Identified

The mystery over the disappearance of the world's most famous aviator has been solved.

Using DNA testing, officials in California have identified the remains of legendary daredevil Steve Fossett from the wreckage of a plane crash in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near the Nevada border.

Fossett disappeared during a solo flight in a civilian aircraft on 3 September 2007. Despite a massive search and rescue effort in the region by state and local authorities lasting weeks, no traces of the 63-year-old aviation pioneer were found. Acting on a plea from his wife, a court in Illinois declared Fossett legally dead in February. Subsequently, a hiker found personal items and debris from Fossett's single-engine Bellanca Super Decathlon on 29 September 2008.

According to an online report yesterday from BBC News, investigators examined two large bones from the site to conclude that the human remains were Fossett's. The aviator's shoes and driver's license were also found in a follow-up search.

"A California Department of Justice Forensics lab has determined that items containing DNA â'¿ match James Stephen Fossett's DNA," a police coroner stated.

The finding officially brings closure to one of the most perplexing disappearances in recent years in the United States.

Peggy Fossett, the adventurer's widow, said the discovery of the bones last week is "another step in the process of completing the investigation into the tragic accident that took Steve's life."

In the Wikipedia entry for Steve Fossett, he is described as "an American businessman, aviator, sailor, and adventurer and the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon," as well as "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."

We covered his disappearance and the search effort to find him in previous entries in this space last year. Please see Family of Famous Aviator Concede Defeat and Aviation Pioneer Fossett Missing After Flight for more on his life and death.

We send along our heartfelt condolences to the Fossett family. He was an inspiration to us all.


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.