On September 28, 2002, about 1000 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 182, N6412A, experienced a loss of engine power in-flight, and collided with a tree during a forced landing near Lucerne Valley, California. The pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The certified flight instructor and pilot-rated front-seated passenger received no injuries; the rear-seated passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight departed the Boulder City Municipal Airport, Boulder City, Nevada, about 0845, with a planned destination of Apple Valley Airport, Apple Valley, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that prior to departure, he verified the airplane had 35 gallons of fuel onboard. While approaching Apple Valley, about 6,500 feet above ground level, the engine began to sputter. He verified that the fuel selector was in the "both" position, pulled the carburetor heat to the on position, and the engine smoothed out. About 10 to 15 seconds later, the engine began to surge, and then quit. He performed the engine failure in-flight emergency procedures, receiving help from the commercial pilot-passenger with completing checklist items.

Unable to restart the engine, the pilot opted to land in a field, next to a busy highway. With full flaps, he approached the field about 65 to 70 miles per hour. Before touching down, he noticed a house directly in front of the airplane's path. He input left rudder and the airplane yawed to the left, away from the house and all other obstacles. The airplane touched down in a nose-high attitude, with the stall horn sounding. The airplane overran the field and continued across a dirt road. The left wing collided with a dead tree and the airplane impacted an embankment, collapsing the nose gear.

After exiting the airplane, the pilot noted that there was a direct tailwind. He estimated the wind was about 25 to 30 knots, with gusts up to 40 knots.

The Federal Aviation Administration inspector stated that he was unable to move forward with the investigation due to the airplane's owner leaving the country. He was also unable to locate the airplane's whereabouts, which prevented him from being able to conduct an examination of the airplane and engine.

After the accident, an aircraft recovery service went to the accident site to remove the wreckage. During a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board, the man recovering the wreckage stated that the airplane had come to rest in an upright position. Upon arrival, he noted that the fuel gauges, located by the wing in the upper cockpit area, both indicated empty tanks. The airplane's right wing was in good condition with the fuel tank intact. The airplane's left wing was damaged and the fuel tank's condition was undetermined. He found about 3 gallons of fuel in the left tank and about 4 gallons of fuel in the right tank.

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