On July 21, 2007, in Dayton, Ohio, Friend and fellow adventurer Dick Rutan presented Steve Fossett with enshrinement in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. While making his presentation, Rutan discussed a major feat the two had in common.
“In 1986, I flew the Voyager around the world, without stopping and without refueling,” he said. “The duration of that flight—touted as aviation’s ‘last first’—was 9 days, 3 minutes, 44 seconds. I’ve always said records are set to be broken, as that proves progress. Little did I know that in less than two decades after my flight, someone like our next inductee would come along and shatter my time. Last year, this adventurer climbed into the cockpit of his GlobalFlyer and trimmed my 216-hour flight from 20 years ago to a mere 76 hours, 42 minutes.”
Rutan mentioned Fossett’s recent glider plane altitude record and his future plans to upset the land speed record.
“It’s not been a cakewalk for any of his 115 records,” he said. “He’s been tossed into the ocean from a balloon, tousled by turbulence in nearly every flight, endured a frozen brake May Day landing, battled bird strikes on flight takeoff and a lot more. But every emergency and every unforeseen challenge was met with determination and unsurpassed expertise. Steve dares to dream, and more importantly, he dares to dare—pushing the elements and his land, water and air vehicles far beyond their limits.”
Rutan spoke admiringly of Fossett’s “never give up” attitude.
“For his recent glider record, he made 27 attempts over four years, before success,” he said. “In adventure after adventure, record after record and success after success, he has a keen knack of assembling remarkable teams and specialists, who have helped in his perseverance and determination for success.”
In his remarks regarding his friend at the induction ceremony, Rutan mentioned Fossett’s expressed wishes that he be remembered as an adventurer and explorer.
“Tonight, that goal is met,” Rutan said.
Fossett acknowledged that Rutan had started him on the path to break his round-the-world record by being the one to suggest that it could be broken by flying solo, “very much in the spirit of sportsmanship.”
Next, when accepting enshrinement, he graciously said he was honored, before quipping, “I hope you’re not giving this to me because you think my aviation career is complete. In fact, I’m still going.”
Even as he was being honored for accomplishments that earned his enshrinement, Fossett enthusiastically talked about achievements that are more recent as well as future challenges. He revealed that the previous week, in Nevada, he had broken a glider world record for speed over a 1,250-kilometer course, with an average speed of 92.73 mph.
“This was the hard-won record Dick mentioned,” he said. “It was the oldest of the 11 unlimited glider speed records. I made 27 attempts over the last four years in Argentina, Australia, South Africa and the U.S.”
He added that in November, he would be attempting glider world records in Argentina, before going on to a different craft: helicopters.
“Within the year, I hope to break at least one of the eight absolute helicopter records,” he said.
Fossett also revealed his secret to success for his solo around-the-world flights: in a balloon and the GlobalFlyer.
“It’s a great support team!” he said.
Fossett mentioned how some of the top American gas balloonists joined his team.
“Many of the same experts were the core of my team when I finally succeeded at the first solo, after six attempts over a space of eight years,” he recalled. “They’re with me tonight: Tim Cole, John Kugler, Dennis Brown, Bert Padelt and Ralph Sheese.”
The 63-year-old adventurer grinned and said he was also “pleased to report” that his wife Peggy was still with him, after 39 years of marriage, and especially after the past decade of his “intense pursuit of records.”
“It has been suggested that Peggy should win the award for forbearance,” he said.
Just two months later, those special moments in Dayton were even more poignant.