Fossett Investigation Rests with NTSB

With this week’s announcement that DNA tests had confirmed human remains in the mountains above Mammoth to be that of Steve Fossett, the mystery of the missing aviator narrows down to the National Transportation Safety Board and the cause of Fossett’s plane crash.

An Oak View, California man emailed us a letter and pictures of the mountain range where Fossett crashed more than a year ago. Spencer Berman took a photo from Shadow Lake on September 3, 2007, two miles from the crash site. Berman said he and his wife had been camped out at Lake Ediza Labor Day weekend. Berman said they were on their way back to Agnew Meadows.

Berman said he did not recall any threatening weather, no sound of an explosion, no smoke from a fire – “just another beautiful summer Sierra day.”
He says that from the photo “you can get a good idea of what visibility and sky conditions were like. The photo looks West, up toward Ritter Range. Berman said volcanic Ridge is out of view to the left on the photo. You can check out the photo on our website –

Berman noted that “the weather had been fine all day.” He also said that most know weather conditions can deteriorate in the afternoon. He guessed that weather conditions were better in the morning than at 2:10pm when he took his photo that showed some overcast conditions.

Berman said he contacted the NTSB investigator handling the case, Georgia Struhsaker. He said, “She was not interested in seeing the photo since the crash happened in the morning.” Berman said he found it interesting that the NTSB knows Fossett crashed in the morning. The aviator had taken off at a ranch in Nevada before 9am that morning with something like 4 hours of fuel.

The NTSB had told us that it would take them 6 months to conclude the investigation. The NTSB website now includes preliminary reports on Fossett’s accident. It is noted that the plane Fossett crashed was involved in a landing incident on May 27, 2007. The NTSB report says the plane “departed the runway during landing roll and impacted a barbed wire fence. An engine sudden stoppage examination was performed and a new constant speed propeller was installed on the airplane.” There is no conclusion that this event impacted Fossett’s flight.

The NTSB preliminary report also says that the day of Fossett’s flight, he had talked with the Flying M Club’s chief pilot and told him that he was “heading south to Highway 395, which runs north-south through Owens Valley.” Fossett took off sometime after 8:15 that morning and was expected back by 11am.

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