Ben Russell, NBC 5 News
The wife of a pilot whose single-engine plane clipped a passing SUV while landing at a North Texas airport over the weekend caught the collision on tape.
The wife of a pilot whose single-engine plane clipped a passing sport utility vehicle while landing at a North Texas airport over the weekend caught the collision on tape.
William Davis was trying to land a 2005 Cessna Skyhawk plane at the Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke on Saturday when he clipped an SUV that was driving adjacent to the runway.
The pilot's wife happened to be filming the landing and caught the collision on video.
In the video, the plane can be seen descending toward the roadway while a black SUV drives along the access road and, eventually, directly underneath the aircraft. The plane's fixed wheel hits the top of the SUV, nearly ripping off the roof in the process.
The crash can be seen sending debris flying, including the plane's landing gear. The video shows the plane taking a sharp nose-dive into the ground and skidding off the runway.
The roadway is a public road that runs perpendicular to the runway and provides access to the east side of the regional airport. (See the area on Google Maps here.)
The pilot was not hurt. The couple in the car, identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety as Frank and Heather Laudo, of Flower Mound, were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.
Commercial airline pilot and retired Air Force Maj. Wendell Green, who has 40 years of experience as a flight instructor, said the pilot and driver both made mistakes that led to the crash.
Green said people frequently ignore the stop sign faintly painted on the pavement of the road that runs in front of the runway.
"Saturday seems to be the day when we get a lot of visitors, and I think that it probably should be marked but, obviously, they knew they were going to the airport," he said. "That was the attraction for them to come out here, so they should have looked before they crossed the runway."
Green said the pilot made a critical error that could have been catastrophic.
"He's looking on down the runway," he said. "He's a little low on his approach. I think definitely he should've been higher on the approach."
The airport owner said a short-field approach that leaves as much runway as possible in the event the pilot has a problem is a common maneuver at small airports.
However, that low approach contributed to an accident that could have easily ended in tragedy, Green said.
"Yes, he was too low, and yes, they should've looked," he said. "And most accidents are that -- a chain of events happened that you wish you would have done a little differently."
The airport owner is working with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board on possible safety recommendations.
However, the road that runs through the property is owned by a third party that would have to approve any changes.
Because Northwest Regional is a privately owned airport, any safety improvements are the sole responsibility of the owners. The FAA does not have jurisdiction.
"I saw it about a second before it hit us," Frank Laudo said. "I was opening my mouth to go, 'Duck.' The next thing you know, there's shattering."
"It was kind of like a hawk with its talons coming up and scooping the car, and the talons breaking off," Heather Laudo said.