On May 19, 1996, at 1205 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 152, N49438, impacted a fence during takeoff on runway 16L at Van Nuys Municipal Airport, Van Nuys, California. The aircraft was substantially damaged; however, the student pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the solo instructional flight.

The student pilot, who reported 38 total flying hours of which 10 were solo, told the NTSB investigator that the purpose of the flight was to remain in the airport traffic pattern and practice touch-and-go landings. On takeoff, during the fourth touch-and-go, when he reached about 10 feet of altitude the aircraft began veering side to side. The pilot tried to control the aircraft, but couldn't, so he closed the throttle and let the aircraft settle to the runway. The aircraft was headed off the runway and before the pilot could stop the aircraft it crossed a grass median, a taxiway, and a concrete ramp before impacting the chain link fence.

The pilot's flight instructor was not present at the time of the accident but debriefed him later. The student had been instructed on wake turbulence procedures in previous lessons and told his flight instructor that he had no recollection of any large aircraft operating on either of the parallel runways or stopped on taxiways between the runways. Based upon the student's emphasis that the aircraft yawed left and right but did not roll, the instructor thought that there may have been a dust devil that the student did not see.

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