Steve Fossett: Millionaire Adventurer


By: Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Few people have the guts -- or the money -- to embark on a life of dangerous adventure. Steve Fossett had more than enough of both. The risk-loving man put his money and his life on the line for the thrill of doing things that no human had ever done before. How much do you know about Fossett and his journeys?

Steve Fossett was the first human being to do what?

Fossett's fearlessness was legendary. He set his mind to a solo, non-stop balloon flight around the Earth, but that was just one of his many crazy ideas.


Fossett had an intense love of the outdoors. In what sort of place did he grow up?

Fossett grew up in Garden City, California, a sizeable city not far from Los Angeles. But the area was close to the mountains, which is where he spent much of his time.


In the 1960s, Fossett swam from the shore near San Francisco to the famous prison on Alcatraz Island. Why?

Fossett was attending Stanford University when he decided to swim to the island to hang a banner that read, "Beat Cal" before a big game. He then swam the six hours back.


What organization made a huge impression on Fossett's childhood?

Steve was an active member of the Boy Scouts, and he eventually attained the club's highest rank of Eagle Scout. He mentioned many times in life that the organization was vital to his development.


Fossett was a hardcore outdoorsman. What degree did he receive from Stanford?

He graduated with a degree in economics and then earned an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. Fossett turned out to be very good with money and the financial markets.


He made boatloads of money doing which job in Chicago?

Fossett dove headfirst into commodities trading, a job that suited his skills. He made millions of dollars by being a savvy trader and businessman. The big bucks helped fund his later adventures.


Which of the following feats did Fossett NOT attempt?

Fossett loved mountain climbing, but the peak of Everest rests in extremely thin air, and his asthma could have caused serious complications from the outset.


Fossett set the world record for fastest speed in which vehicle?

In 2004, he soared above Germany in an airship (or zeppelin). His speed wasn't neck-breaking -- around 70 mph -- but it was the fastest anyone had ever flown one of these vehicles.


He was a fantastic -- and speedy --sailor. In 2001, which feat did he accomplish in 4 days and 17 hours?

Fossett and his crew were known for incredible sailing speed. Together, they crossed the Atlantic in just 4 days and 17 hours -- nearly two days faster than the previous record.


In 2004, Fossett and his crew set the record for the fastest ship journey around the Earth. It took them just over 58 days to complete the trip, which bested the previous record by how much?

They didn't just beat the around-the-world record -- they shattered it by nearly 6 days. That record has since been topped.


In 1998, Fossett was on his fourth attempt to fly around the world in a balloon. What happened?

Near Australia, his balloon drifted into a terrifying thunderstorm that caused his balloon to crash. He plummeted nearly 30,000 feet into the Coral Sea.


Once he somehow survived the 30,000-foot fall from the skies, which problem did Fossett have to deal with?

As luck would have it, he plunged right into a sea swarming with sharks. He managed to climb aboard his emergency life raft, but it was hours before he was rescued.


As if the crash and sharks weren't enough, what other problem did Fossett face during his misadventure near Australia?

As the balloon slumped towards Earth, one of the propane burners set the capsule on fire. Fossett said later that he was sure that he was going to die. Miraculously, he survived and of course decided to try again.


During his fifth attempt at ballooning around the world, Fossett was worried he'd be shot down over which country?

The Chinese were not happy that Fossett's balloon was drifting into their airspace. It took diplomatic intervention from the U.S. to prevent a catastrophe.


In 2002, Fossett became the first person to fly a non-stop, solo balloon trip around the Earth. How many times did he try before finally succeeding?

He knew the record would be tough to accomplish, and he was right -- he failed five times. On the sixth attempt, he finally made it all the way around the planet.


What was the name of the balloon that Fossett flew during his historic balloon flight?

Steve ascended into the skies in the Spirit of Freedom, which combined both hot air and helium to stay aloft. The balloon was about 100 feet tall and required dozens of fuel canisters to keep it floating around the Earth.


How long did it take for Fossett to complete the around-the-world balloon trip?

He spent just shy of two weeks in the balloon's closet-sized capsule. His only sleep came in the form of 45-minute cat naps.


Why couldn't Fossett stand upright in the balloon's capsule?

The capsule was just five feet tall, meaning Fossett had to hunch over for most of his 13-day trip. And because the cabin wasn't pressurized, he had to wear an oxygen mask.


Fossett had one long-term engagement but never married.

While he was still taking university classes, Fossett married Peggy Viehland. She was his wife until his death.


In 2005, Fossett was the first person to circle the world in an aircraft without what?

Fossett flew around the world alone … without refueling. The journey took him more than 67 hours and required 11,000 pounds of fuel.


In 2006, he decided to try and fly longer than any other aircraft in human history. Which problem did he NOT face during the flight?

No windows shattered, but plenty of other things went wrong. In one scary instance, turbulence nearly ripped the aircraft apart ... but it was a later electrical malfunction that ended his journey.


Even with the plane's problems, Fossett set the record for longest non-stop flight.

Fossett's aircraft problems forced him to touch down early, but he still set the record. He flew for 76 hours and 45 minutes and covered more than 26,300 miles in the process, an amazing feat of endurance.


Fossett finished the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on his second try. How long did it take him to train for the event?

He spent roughly a half a decade preparing for the grueling race. For all of his efforts, he was rewarded with a 47th-place finish.


He was also a competitive runner. What was the longest race that he completed?

Fossett entered the Leadville Trail 100-mile race in the mountains of Colorado and finished. He also ran the prestigious (and fast-paced) Boston Marathon.


The adventurer was famously friendly with another wealthy person, one who partly funded his adventures. Who was it?

Richard Branson, of Virgin Atlantic fame, was one of Fossett's friends. He was extremely supportive of Steve's daring undertakings and played a role in many of his escapades.


Fossett swam across the English Channel and got a trophy for what?

In 1985, he swam the English Channel … really, really slowly. He was presented with a goofy trophy to mark his sluggish accomplishment.


How did Fossett die?

In 2007, he flew from a small airport in Nevada and his plane disappeared. It was though he'd suddenly vanished from the face of the Earth.


A huge search was launched to locate the missing adventurer. How long did it take authorities to find Fossett's plane?

Officials spent more than $1.5 million dollars looking for the famous man -- likely far more than they would have for an ordinary citizen. They never found him.


How was Fossett's plane finally located?

More than a year later, a hiker found ID cards belonging to Fossett in the Sierra Nevada mountains not far from the airport he departed. A few day later, search teams located his plane, as well as human bones that were subjected to DNA testing, confirming Fossett's death.


What caused the plane to crash?

Fossett probably encountered downdrafts that pushed his plane into the mountains. No one will ever know for sure, but his inexperience with this type plane may have caused him to miscalculate the plane's capabilities … which then caused his death.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!