FTW01LA112
FTW01LA112

On April 29, 2001, at 2345 central daylight time, a Cessna 172N airplane, N6388F, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power near Marfa, Texas. The airplane was registered to and operated by Topnotch Aviation, Inc., of Austin, Texas. The private pilot and passenger sustained minor injuries. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight departed the Culberson County Airport, Van Horn, Texas, at 2259, and was destined for Marfa, Texas.

Earlier on the day of the accident, the flight departed Austin, Texas, on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan destined for El Paso, Texas. While en route, at 2216, the pilot reported to Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) that he would like to land at the Van Horn Airport for fuel because he "miscalculated the wind and weather." At 2217, the controller verified that the pilot wanted to land at the Culberson County Airport in Van Horn. The pilot acknowledged affirmative. The controller instructed the pilot to fly the present heading for the airport. The pilot stated he had the airport in sight and the controller cleared him for a visual approach to the airport. Subsequently, the pilot landed the airplane at the airport.

At 2309, after departing from the airport, the pilot reported on the Albuquerque ARTCC frequency, that the airport had fuel, but that he didn't "know how to turn on the fuel machine and [that] there was nobody there." He inquired about the fuel at the Marfa Airport. The controller said that he would make a phone call to the Marfa Airport. At 2317, the pilot called the controller and asked him if he had called the airport. The controller responded in the negative and told the pilot that they were still trying to call Alpine Airport and Marfa Airport. The pilot stated that he was about 40 miles from Marfa Airport. At 2324, the controller informed the pilot that the Pecos Airport had fuel 24 hours a day and that they were still trying to call the Marfa Airport. At 2325, the pilot stated that he "honestly [didn't] know if [he could] make it even to Marfa, quite frankly." At 2329, Southwest Airlines flight 1066, relayed to the controller that N6388F had run out of fuel 27.3 miles northwest of Marfa. No further radio communications were received from the airplane. At 2330, the controller identified the airplane's position on his radar to be 20 miles at 300 degrees from the Marfa airport.

The pilot executed a forced landing, and during the landing, the airplane struck several Yucca plants before coming to rest upright on a small mesa.

Examination of the airplane by the FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, revealed that all three landing gear had separated from the airplane. The engine was displaced down about 25 degrees, the right wing was bent downward, and the bottom of the fuselage was crushed upward. Examination of both fuel tanks revealed no usable fuel.

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