On April 9, 1997, at 0755 hours mountain standard time, a Cessna 172N, N8123E, veered off runway 21R and struck a ditch while practicing touch-and-go landings at Ernest A. Love Field, Prescott, Arizona. The airplane, owned and operated by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), was substantially damaged. The student pilot, on a local area solo instructional flight, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated at 0640.

According to the operator's report the student pilot had been approved by his flight instructor for a maximum total wind component of 15 knots, a maximum crosswind component of 5 knots. The duty flight supervisor reviewed the student pilot's qualifications and approved him for departure. The pilot was dispatched during routine operations for his first unsupervised solo activity.

At approximately 0730, the flight supervisor began to observe wind direction and velocity exceeding forecast conditions. At the same time, Prescott Tower started a runway change. The flight supervisor subsequently began recalling all student pilots from the practice area. At this time, the student pilot was returning from the practice area and was preparing for a touch-and-go.

The student pilot reported that after touchdown, the aircraft was rolling off the runway towards the left. He stated that he applied right rudder in an attempt to bring the plane back onto centerline. This didn't effect the airplane path as it continued to roll off the runway. Reported winds were from 150 degrees at 8 knots.

An Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector from the Scottsdale, Arizona, Flight Standards District Office reviewed aircraft logbooks and maintenance entries. No deficiencies were noted. The aircraft was inspected and no abnormalities were found.

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