NTSB Identification: FTW01FA098.
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Accident occurred Thursday, April 12, 2001 in Bay City, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/15/2002
Aircraft: Cessna 172E, registration: N5638T
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The night cross country visual flight rules flight had been airborne for 3 hours and 37 minutes when the instrument rated pilot reported to a local flight service station (FSS) that he had 10 minutes of fuel on board, and was disoriented. The FSS connected the pilot with the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center, who provided radar vectors to the nearest airport. However, 10 minutes later the pilot reported that he had run out of fuel and, subsequently, the final radar return was received. The airplane impacted a fence and trees 10 miles north of the destination airport. Review of the radar track revealed that, during the final 36 minutes of the flight, the airplane was not maintaining a constant altitude and had been making "S" turns, 360-degree turns, and at one point had flown past the destination airport. Marginal visual meteorological conditions and patchy instrument meteorological conditions existed near the accident site and destination airport. There was no record of the pilot having received a weather briefing from a flight service station prior to or during the flight. The airplane was examined and the integrity of the fuel system was confirmed. Further examination of the fuel system revealed that only unusable fuel was present in the fuel system. No anomalies were found with the airframe or engine that would have precluded operation of the airplane.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

the pilot's delay in taking remedial action (contacting ATC) after he became lost/disoriented during a night cross country flight, which resulted in a forced landing due to fuel exhaustion. Contributing factors to the accident were the pilot's failure to contact a flight service station for a weather briefing, the low clouds and dark night light conditions.

Full narrative available

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