James Stephen Fossett (1944 – 2007) was an American businessman, adventurer and record-setter. He was the first person to fly solo around the world in a hot air balloon, and also the first to do so non-stop.
Fossett was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up in California. He studied economics at Stanford University, where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. He later worked as a stockbroker and commodities trader.
In 1985, Fossett set a world record for the longest non-stop flight in a hot air balloon, flying 3,737 miles (6,036 kilometers) from South Dakota to Texas. The following year, he became the first person to fly solo around the world in a hot air balloon, covering a distance of 26,697 miles (42,974 kilometers) in just under 10 days.
In 2001, Fossett set another world record for the longest non-stop flight in a heavier-than-air aircraft, flying a leased Boeing 737-400 non-stop for 76 hours and 45 minutes. The flight covered a distance of 21,267 miles (34,223 kilometers).
Fossett also set records for the longest flights in a glider (1,636 miles or 2,632 kilometers in 2001) and a piston-powered airplane (5,766 miles or 9,267 kilometers in 2006). He also set the land speed record for a steam-powered car, reaching an speed of 148 miles (238 kilometers) per hour in Nevada in 2006.
Fossett disappeared while flying a small plane over the Sierra Nevada mountains in California in 2007. His body was found a year later, and the cause of his death was ruled to be accidental.
At the time of his death, Fossett held more than 100 aviation records. He is remembered as a skilled pilot and a courageous adventurer.