Steve Fossett famous for setting world records |

Steve Fossett famous for setting world records

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – A childhood fascination with explorers set Steve Fossett out on a lifetime adventure.

The 63-year-old millionaire daredevil has fascinated the public with feats in balloons, airplanes, gliders and sailboats.

But even though Fossett is famous for his risky adventures, friends say the former commodities broker always prepares for his trips and never tackles a stunt without researching it first.

“Even though everyone calls him an adventurer, he’s very risk-averse,” said Jeff Stolzer, spokesman for the New York City-based Explorers Club, of which Fossett is a member. “He plans everything meticulously.”

Fossett was missing Tuesday after setting off alone on Labor Day in a small plane from an airfield owned by hotel mogul Barron Hilton in western Nevada. Fossett, who was looking for a location for an upcoming attempt to break the land speed record in a car, apparently did not file a flight plan.

Fossett has said he loved reading about explorers and mountain climbers as a child. As an adult, he drew up a list of adventures he wanted to accomplish.

“I always had my eye open for a favorite adventure,” Fossett said in a 1987 Washington Post profile.

Over time, Fossett climbed some of the world’s best-known peaks, including the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

But Fossett is perhaps best known for his aviation exploits. In 2002, he became the first person to circumnavigate the globe nonstop in a hot-air balloon. The record came after five failures.

“It is a wonderful time for me,” Fossett said at the time. “Finally, after six flights, I have succeeded and it is a very satisfying experience.”

Three years later, in March 2005, he held the record for being the first to fly a plane solo around the world without stopping or refueling, covering 23,000 miles in 67 hours.

“In aviation, solo flights carry quite a distinction from co-piloted flights, they become more of an endurance endeavor, and become focused on the ability and the performance of a single person,” he told The Associated Press before the unveiling of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer jet in 2004.

Fossett has had his share of near-death experiences while pursuing world records. In 1998, he survived a 29,000-foot plunge into the Coral Sea after his balloon ripped during a storm.

“My gosh, I’m going to die,” Fossett said he thought at the time. He was eventually rescued by a schooner.

Fossett presses on because of his thirst for accomplishments, friends said.

“He pushes the limit,” Stolzer said.