On September 30, 1999, at 1130 central daylight time, a Cessna 152 single engine airplane, N5399B, sustained substantial damage upon impacting the terrain during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power near Slaton, Texas. The airplane was owned and operated by the student pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The student pilot, sole occupant, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the solo cross country instructional flight, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed. The flight departed Decatur Municipal Airport, Decatur, Texas.

During interviews, conducted by the local authorities and the FAA inspector, the student pilot stated that he landed the airplane in the cotton field after the "engine failed due to fuel starvation" during the second leg of the round trip solo cross country flight from Lubbock, Texas, to Decatur, Texas. The student pilot departed Lubbock with full fuel tanks. Before departing Decatur, the pilot visually checked the fuel tanks and observed the fuel tank level was about an inch below the filler neck on each tank. The fuel gauges indicated over 24 gallons. At approximately 98 nautical miles from the destination airport, the student pilot "noticed that the fuel gauge on the right was beginning to drop quicker than the gauge on the left." The pilot diverted toward the Slaton Municipal Airport; however, the airplane was approximately 8 miles from the airport when the "engine began to lose power." A forced landing was performed in the cotton field; however, when the front landing gear touched down in the dirt, the airplane flipped to the inverted position. The local authorities found no physical evidence of fuel at the site or compromise of the integrity of the fuel system.

The FAA inspector, who examined the accident site, reported that the airplane struck a dike during the landing roll. The rear spar of the right wing was damaged, and leading edge dents were found in both wings. Total fuel capacity for the airplane is 39 gallons (37.5 usable). The inspector reported that "when both fuel tanks were drained, about 2 gallons of fuel remained between both fuel tanks." The inspector further reported that the student pilot based his calculated fuel consumption on cruise performance at 4.7 gallons per hour for a pressure altitude of 8,000 feet; however, the Cessna 152 performance chart indicates a fuel burn of 4.9 gallons per hour. The pilot "failed to calculate the climb performance to cruise altitude." No pre-impact discrepancies were found by the FAA inspector with the engine or the airframe.

The student pilot reported that he and his flight instructor performed the fuel calculations for the flight. According to a Flight Log, provided by the pilot, he was not tracking fuel consumption during the flight.

On the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2), the owner/pilot was asked the following question: How could this accident have been prevented? The owner responded, "I could have topped off the tanks before the return trip."

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