On January 20, 2004, about 1300 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172P, N5364K, made an off airport landing on a road near Granada Hills, California, following a total loss of engine power. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by Royal Aviation under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight departed Metropolitan Oakland International Airport (OAK), Oakland, California, about 1030, with a planned destination of John Wayne-Orange County Airport (SNA), Santa Ana, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

During a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC), the pilot reported that before departing OAK, he filled the tanks with about 26 gallons of fuel. Although the tanks were not full, he estimated that he had about 3.5 to 4 hours of useable fuel. He was thinking of stopping at Harris Ranch Airport (3O8), Coalinga, California, to refuel, but while en route, decided the weather was too bad to land there.

While descending from 7,500 feet, about 4 miles from Van Nuys Airport (VNY), Van Nuys, California, the engine lost power. The fuel gauges in the cockpit indicated the left fuel tank had a little less than a ½ tank and the right had about ¼ tank. The pilot decided to go through a hole in the cloud layer in an effort to get below the cloud base. The engine momentarily started and he climbed back up to the cloud base. After the engine lost power again, despite his efforts to restart it, he realized that he would not be able to make it to VNY and began to look for an adequate place to make a forced landing. With the help of a pilot who was familiar with the area, he decided to land on an asphalt utility road. During the emergency landing, the bottom of the left wing made contact with a fence on the side of the road. The pilot applied heavy brake pressure and the airplane swerved, resulting in the right rear stabilizer impacting steel containers at the end of the road.

The pilot thought that the accident was the result of fuel exhaustion. The pilot reported no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane.

A routine aviation weather report (METAR) for VNY, reported that the sky condition was overcast at 3,900 feet at the time of the accident.

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