On October 31, 2002, at 2310 central standard time, a Cessna 172G single-engine airplane, N6072R, was substantially damaged upon collision with terrain while executing a precautionary landing near Fort Stockton, Texas. The non-instrument rated commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained minor injuries. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight for which a flight plan was not filed. The flight originated from Wilcox, Arizona, at an undetermined time, with New Braunfels, Texas, as it's intended destination.

The pilot reported to the FAA inspector, who traveled to the accident site, that during a night cross-country flight, while operating in VFR conditions above a solid overcast, he became concerned about the fuel status, and elected to descend the airplane through the weather. After breaking out of the overcast, the airplane impacted terrain, coming to rest in an open field about a mile north of the Fort Stockton Airport.

Local authorities, who responded to the off-airport landing, reported that the pilot left a note on the airplane, and went to a local hotel for the night. The authorities proceeded to the motel to question the pilot.

The pilot further reported having accumulated approximately 2,500 flight hours, of which about 1,257 were accumulated in military aircraft and about 400 hours in the accident make and model, with about 30 hours in the preceding 30 days.

Examination of the wreckage of the 1965-model airplane (serial number 172-53741) by the FAA inspector revealed skin damage to the right wing. The right main landing gear was collapsed in the aft direction, the nose landing gear strut was broken, and the engine firewall sustained structural damage.

A review of the aircraft records by the FAA inspector revealed that the airplane, which had been registered to the pilot since June 10, 2002, had accumulated approximately 3,500 hours. The inspector added that the airplane did not have a valid annual inspection and the pilot did not hold a current medical certificate. The pilot voluntarily surrendered his commercial certificate to the FAA inspector.

The weather in the vicinity of the accident was reported as a 600-foot overcast ceiling, with the visibility at one mile in fog, and calm winds.

Despite several attempts, the pilot failed to return a completed Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2) to the NTSB Investigator-In-Charge.

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