On, September 25, 2002, about 1300 Pacific daylight time, an experimental Whetzel Thorpe T-18, N60LW, collided with terrain while making a forced landing at a private airstrip near Valley Center, California. The forced landing was precipitated by a loss of engine power in cruise. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, received minor injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The local personal flight departed Ramona Airport, Ramona, California, about 1240. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and it was not determined if a flight plan had been filed. The wreckage was at 33 degrees 15.5 minutes north latitude by 117 degrees 05 minutes west longitude.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane about an hour after the accident occurred. He stated that he talked to the pilot about the accident. The pilot reported that the engine experienced a loss of power while en route. He made a forced landing at the nearest airstrip. With the flaps in the retracted position, he attempted to land on the dirt runway. While on the landing roll, he was unable to stop the airplane before colliding with a hill at the end of the runway.

The FAA inspector did not see any skid marks to indicate emergency braking action. He also stated that he saw no signs of fuel at the accident sight. He visually checked the inside of the fuel tanks and found that both were empty. Neither of the fuel tanks were breached during the accident. He also noted that the airplane's fuel gauges were inoperable. The pilot told him that the airplane's fuel indictors do not work, but he visually checked the quantity before flights. He added that he uses automobile fuel, which has no color, and is therefore difficult to verify quantity.

The pilot voluntarily surrendered his pilot certificate on 12/03/02 to the FAA. The pilot failed to file or return a Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report, NTSB Form 6120.1/2.

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