NTSB Identification: LAX02LA296.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, September 25, 2002 in Valley Center, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2006
Aircraft: Whetzel Thorpe T-18, registration: N60LW
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that the engine experienced a loss of power while en route, and the airplane collided with a dirt berm while he attempted a forced landing at a private airstrip. With the flaps in the retracted position, he attempted to land on the dirt runway. While on the landing roll, he was unable to stop the airplane before colliding with a hill at the end of the runway. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane about an hour after the accident occurred. He did not see any skid marks to indicate emergency braking action. He also saw no signs of fuel at the accident site. He visually checked the inside of the fuel tanks and found that both were empty. Neither of the fuel tanks were breached during the accident. He also noted that the airplane's fuel gauges were inoperable. The pilot told him that the fuel indictors do not work, but he visually checked the quantity before flights. He added that he uses automobile fuel, which has no color, and therefore, is difficult to verify quantity.

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

the pilot's inadequate preflight planning/preparation by not verifying the fuel supply, and his inadequate in-flight planning/decision, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and loss of engine power. A factor in the accident was the pilot's decision to initiate flight with a known equipment deficiency (inoperative fuel quantity gauge).

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