At a privately owned airport in Texas, a student pilot soloing managed to clip the top of an SUV that failed to yield the right of way on a road that runs right off the end of the runway. There was apparently no signage other than the word Stop reportedly painted on the road. It should also be noted that the runway does have a displaced threshold, and there’s usually a good reason for that.
The road does not belong to the airport, but is also privately owned. In retrospect it seems like this could have been better marked because the driver of the SUV appeared to have no idea that his SUV could become an instant convertible. Fortunately there were no injuries other than the student deciding that he may not continue to get his Private certificate. The financial injury, however, will be significant.
The other accident, in Maine, unfortunately had a very sad ending. A Cessna 172 on takeoff struck a pickup truck that was crossing the runway. According to the NTSB preliminary report, the pickup driver, “subsequently saw something grayish in color, continued to cross the runway, and then got out to inspect what he saw at which time he observed an airplane attempting to climb. He continued watching the airplane drift to the left of the runway and make a left turn as if attempting to return to the airport. Subsequently, the airplane was then observed in slow flight, and then it began to spin.” There were three fatalities. The pickup driver, a pilot and CFI based at the airport, stated that he made a call on the CTAF and crossed the runway.
Runways are dangerous places, and it’s incumbent on pilots and drivers alike to beware. It’s hard to know if a driver will understand or even be aware of an aircraft’s presence. I suspect there are two airport managers who will be reviewing procedures in the coming weeks to determine what, if anything, might need to be changed. Other airport managers and pilots should do likewise.
This type of mishap is exceedingly rare, and yet it is not the first time, nor will it likely be the last car-airplane encounter that results in a very bad outcome.
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