On April 2, 1997, about 1410 eastern standard time, a Cessna 150, N3616J, was substantially damaged during a collision with the terrain from a forced landing near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The student pilot was uninjured. Visual meteorological conditions existed and no flight plan was filed for the solo cross country flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The certificated flight instructor reported that he reviewed the student pilot's cross country planning, and signed the student's third class medical/student pilot certificate for the solo cross country flight. The student pilot stated that he departed Hazleton Municipal Airport, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, about 1050, destined for Clearfield-Lawrence Airport, Clearfield, Pennsylvania, about 110 miles west. The student pilot stated that "the highway (Interstate 80) would led him to his destination." He reported that he found some of his check points, but after the elapsed time, he could not see the airport. The student pilot reported that he thought his position was south of the airport, and he searched for his destination. The student pilot stated that he could not explain why he did not make any radio calls for assistance, only that he became disoriented.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Controllers tracked the airplane's transponder into Pittsburgh International Airport's Class B airspace. The airplane impacted the ground about 85 miles west of the intended destination. The pilot reported that he had no mechanical problems, and flew until forced to land "after running out of fuel."

A FAA Inspector examined the wreckage on April 3, 1997. The location was approximately 2 miles east of the Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Inspector reported that the pilot landed up slope on hilly, rough terrain. The nose landing gear and strut were broken off and lying on the ground near the initial impact point. The firewall was bent upward approximately 2 inches and the right wing tip leading edge was crushed causing spar damage and buckling at the wing root. Flaps were found at the 35 degree position. The Inspector reported about 2.5 gallons of fuel were drained from the fuel tanks, and the airplane's manual stated that 3.5 gallons of fuel were unusable.

The student pilot had accumulated 68.3 hours of flight time, with 45 hours in the Cessna 150.

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