On June 29, 1997, at 1545 central daylight time, a Cessna 152, N6099L, owned by Gazelle Air, Inc., of Temple, Texas, and operated as an instructional flight by a private individual, under Title 14 CFR Part 91, sustained substantial damage during the precautionary landing near Gorman, Texas. The solo student pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross country flight and a VFR flight plan was filed. The flight departed Mineral Wells, Texas, at 1436.

During personal interviews, conducted by the investigator-in-charge (IIC), and on the enclosed statement, the student pilot reported that the round robin flight route included Temple, Mineral Wells, Breckenridge, Brownwood, and Temple, Texas, respectively. The first leg from Temple to Mineral Wells was uneventful and there were no discrepancies noted with the aircraft. The airplane departed with full fuel from Mineral Wells, where the pilot observed the line person refueling the airplane; however, the pilot did not look in the fuel tanks during the preflight.

En route to Brownwood, the student pilot performed one full stop landing at Breckenridge. The student pilot talked on the radio for the entry and departure to the traffic pattern at Breckenridge and recalled hearing radio transmissions after the 1532 departure. During the takeoff roll at Breckenridge, the pilot noticed "the right fuel tank indicated half and the left tank showed less than half." The pilot stated that she knew that the airplane should not have used that much fuel on a 45 nautical mile trip. En route to Brownwood at a cruise altitude of 3,500 feet MSL, the student pilot noticed that the radio lights were dim and the fuel gauges showed "EMPTY."

The student pilot attempted to locate Brownwood on the sectional chart, find the plotter, and cross check navigation radials from the Waco (90 miles) and Brownwood (70 miles) VOR's. The pilot did not recall the exact location of the aircraft in reference to Brownwood; however, the pilot reported that the last known point was around Carbon, Texas. The navigation "VOR needle was centered with a FROM and the needle would not move either left or right" when turning the Omni Bearing Selector (OBS). Radio communication was attempted on a frequency of 122.8. When a response was not received, the pilot tuned to the 127.8 frequency, trying to check the radio by hearing static; however, none was heard. The pilot stated "I did not know how much fuel I had left. The gauges indicated empty and I thought about how much fuel I had used from Mineral Wells to Breckenridge, so I started looking for a place to do a precautionary landing." The engine continued to run and the amps looked "OK."

To the left of the airplane's course, the pilot saw a private airport; however, there were power lines and trees at the airport and the pilot "did not feel that comfortable landing due to the powerlines and trees." The pilot spotted two green fields; however, one of the fields had deep ruts and the second field had a fence and gully at the end. The pilot reported that the winds were calm and an open field was selected for the precautionary landing with a downwind pattern entry for landing. During the completion of the landing checklist, full flaps were extended. The airplane touched down in the soft sandy field, the main wheels went down into the sand, the nose gear collapsed, and the airplane nosed over and came to rest inverted. The student pilot released the seat belt and shoulder harness and exited the airplane.

During personal interviews, conducted by the IIC, and on the enclosed statement, the flight instructor stated that the student pilot was completing the cross country requirements for the Private Pilot Certificate. The aircraft had standard fuel tanks (26 gallons) and a Cessna RT385A NAVCOM (LED display) for navigation (VOR) and communication. There were no known maintenance discrepancies prior to the flight and the student pilot had previously flown portions of the trip. En route, although the fuel gauges read "EMPTY" the pilot thought that fuel was remaining but was not sure due to the low fuel readings when the flight departed Breckenridge. The pilot elected to make a precautionary landing because of the fuel concerns. The flight instructor stated that he had worked with the student for a "long time on decision making."

A review of the student pilot's logbook, by the IIC, revealed that the student started her flight training on October 5, 1994. The student received flight instruction on navigation and emergency procedures during several dual cross country flights.

In April and May 1997, the student pilot received instruction during 3 dual cross country flights. Following each of the dual instructional flights, the student pilot made a solo cross country over the same route.

By June 1997, the student pilot had logged 154.8 hours of total flight time. This flight time included 34.2 hours local solo, 12.5 hours solo cross country, and 33.5 hours of dual cross country instruction. On June 14, 1997, the student pilot received dual instruction on cross county navigation from Temple, to Breckenridge, to Brownwood, to Temple. On the day of the accident, the student was endorsed for the solo cross country flight from Temple to Mineral Wells, Breckenridge, Brownwood, to Temple.

FAA inspectors and the operator examined the airplane and found the electrically operated flaps fully extended and 12 gallons of fuel in the airplane. Structural damage was reported for the wings, the empennage, and the engine firewall. The operator recovered the airplane and examined the fuel system and the electrical system. He reported that following a recharge of the aircraft battery, the fuel tanks were filled and the fuel gauges read "FULL" and the COM/NAV equipment operated. A mechanic performed tests of the fuel indication and transmitting system and reported that the test indicated "no malfunctions of either system."

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