October 2, 2008
By Alton K. Marsh
The Bellanca Decathlon flown by Steve Fossett when he disappeared in September 2007 has been found in California, more than 100 nm from where he took off from the Flying M Ranch near Yerington, Nev.
There was no evidence of human remains in the severely damaged aircraft, CNN has reported. The crash site is less than a mile from where a hiker, exploring an area well off any established trail, came across Fossett’s identification documents. For the past year searchers have concentrated on sites in Nevada, based partly on a report that Fossett was searching for a flat desert area where he could set a new world speed record on land. The crash occurred near a mountainous recreational area west of Mammoth Mountain called Red’s Meadow.
Mammoth Lakes police have some cash and three pieces of identification found by hikers in Madera County, California. One appears to be a pilot’s certificate and clearly shows the name as James Stephen Fossett. Another document containing his name is from the Soaring Society of America. The final one is too weathered to read, but came from the National Aeronautic Association and is a sporting license. The NAA issues plastic sporting licenses that allow the holder to compete for world records. A fleece pullover also was found at the site.
Aerial searchers spotted the wreckage of a small plane Wednesday less than a mile from where the documents were found. Rescue crews are on their way to the site today.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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