On August 17, 1998, at 1205 hours mountain standard time, a Cessna 172N, N5233D, lost power and landed in the desert terrain approximately 6 miles southwest of Chandler, Arizona. The aircraft sustained substantial damage. The private pilot and two passengers, the sole occupants, were not injured. The personal flight originated at the North Las Vegas, Nevada, airport, at 0736, and was en route to the Chandler Municipal Airport in Chandler, Arizona, at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the route of flight. A VFR flight plan was on file but was not activated.

The pilot told the Chandler tower that she was running out of fuel. She reported that the aircraft shook and started losing altitude, then seemed to start back up before quitting completely. The tower gave the pilot headings to the Stellar Airpark in Chandler, but the pilot reported that she did not have enough altitude to make the field. The aircraft landed in the desert terrain and the nose gear and left main landing gear were ripped off. The aircraft nosed over and came to rest inverted.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector from the Scottsdale, Arizona, Flight Standards District Office responded to the accident site and reported that both fuel tanks were intact and there was no fuel visible in either tank. The inspector further stated that according to the Fixed-Base Operator (FBO) in Las Vegas where the pilot parked overnight, the pilot purchased 40.7 gallons of fuel after landing. According to the Cessna Information Manual, the accident aircraft holds 43 total gallons of fuel, with 40 useable gallons.

The FAA inspector conducted an engine run-up on September 29, 1998. After adding approximately 1 gallon of fuel, the engine started on the first attempt and ran smoothly for several minutes with no discrepancies or abnormal sounds noted.

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