Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 01:20 UK

Turbulence 'downed Fossett plane'

Steve Fossett in Kansas, USA (3 March 2005)
Mr Fossett had achieved over 100 world records

Strong winds and downdraughts were the likely cause of the plane crash which killed millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, US safety investigators say.

The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) said Mr Fossett had probably flown through winds that "exceeded the climb capability" of his small plane.

Mr Fossett was 63 when he disappeared in September 2007 while on a solo flight from a Nevada ranch.

His remains were found a year later in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Following its investigation, the NTSB determined there was no evidence of any "malfunctions or failures that would have prevented normal operation" of Mr Fossett's Bellanca Super Decathlon plane.

They said the likely cause of the crash was Mr Fossett's "inadvertent encounter with downdrafts that exceeded the climb capability of the airplane".

The downdraughts, of "at least 400 feet per minute", would have pulled the single-engine plane suddenly downwards, leading to Mr Fossett losing control of the aircraft.

Engine working

Marks on the ground and the distribution of wreckage over a wide area indicated that the plane had been travelling at a high speed when it hit the ground, said the report.

Signs of damage to the propeller and crankshaft showed the engine had still been working as the plane hit the ground and burst into flames, destroying most of the fuselage.

Despite an intensive search after he went missing, no trace of Mr Fossett was found for more than a year and he was legally declared dead in February 2008.

But the search resumed in November 2008, after a hiker recovered identification documents from a remote location in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

A search team then found Mr Fossett's shoes and driver's licence along with two large bones which DNA tests showed were his.

Mr Fossett became the first person to circle the globe solo in a balloon in 2002 and had about 100 other world records to his name.


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