This is why cars don't belong on a runway

Landing lane hits SUV that tries to cross in front of him

OK, the SUV wasn’t actually on the runway. The driver was crossing the approach end. The pilot probably couldn’t see the SUV. He’d already seen that the runway was clear. He was right there at the end of his landing approach, and I’m sure his attention was focused on the centerline of the runway, his attitude (pitch), airspeed, and so on.

Obviously the SUV was negligent not to look up-path for an approaching aircraft but, as he was very close to the white fence as he drove along, so too was the pilot to that same fence. In fact, it appears he only cleared it by 2 or 3 feet. That seems to be cutting it far too close, no need to put yourself in such proximity to a completely avoidabe obstacle.

Should have been driving a Skoda Yeti.


That was my thought, as well. That plane looks to me like it was barely going to make it to the pavement - I believe this is the fence, road, and runway end in question.

Here is the aerial view of the same site. If the plane was low enough to hit a car as it crossed Kelly Drive, then it’s leaving itself scant margin of error for even hitting the runway at all - the first few hundred feet of which appear to be ahead of the displaced threshold, and thus not intended for use in landing in the first place. (If I read the description correctly, planes should not be touching down until passing the thick white line which the yellow arrows lead up to.)

It looks like about 250 feet from the fence to the white line. So over the fence he should have had an altitude of about 80 feet?

Quite right about the displaced threshold. In fact, that’s probably why this runway has a displaced threshold; to give sufficient clearance over vehicles using that road. (Hard to tell which end of the runway this happened at, but it’s the same at the other end. And that’s assuming that the pictures in Google maps are accurate with the current runway markings.)

I wouldn’t hurry to blame the SUV driver. Looks to me like the pilot was too low.

Is there a warning to drivers about watching out for aircraft… Usually is as the road is inside the airport fence.

Very rarely do ground vehicles ever have right away over aircraft.

It is perfectly legal & safe to fly just inches above the ground or obstruction until you reach the landing area unless it has NOTAM ( for temporary things ) Or a permanent restriction that I would think the pilot would know about since he was apparently a local.

Need more information…

My initial reaction is not to blame either, but the airport and highway designers that allowed such a close connection.

That said, we have small airport (yet the biggest one in the county) with a similar road/runway crossing, but at least there are signs that say, “Beware of low flying aircraft”.

Well, that proximity of the road is probably why they drew a displaced threshold.

In the Google aerial view I can see that at least the southern displaced threshold was relatively recent as of the time of the picture, since you can still clearly read the original Runway 35 markings. Maybe they just did not have the budget to fully obliterate the old markings and merely scraped off the more reflective paint. That couple hundred feet of asphalt past the displaced threshold is probably now considered “overrun” space for landings or aborts when the runway is operated from the other direction.’s site states the runways have nonstandard markings (so does the airport’s own homepage NOTAM), and specifically for 17 it gives the following conditions: 400’ displaced threshold, 4.5 degree glidepath, obstacles identified as “10ft hill at 200ft from runway, ROAD 30FT FROM END OF RUNWAY” (their all-caps, not mine). So it is noted that there’s an active road there (and in the opposite direction they note a tall fence and trees).

GusBSpot, I could imagine that with the pilot being a local or a “regular” at the airport he may have become accustomed to “just knowing” that he could make it short of threshold. It looks like his glideslope was aimed to touch down shortly past the turning area at the end of the runway.

Maybe someone could also place a STOP / WATCH FOR APPROACHING AIRCRAFT sign 50 feet off each side of centerline on Kelly Drive (but those would become fixed obstacles to be noted permanently on the NOTAM, so maybe you’d want stop/yield road markings).

Perhaps they should change part of the fence to one of these.

I fly out of that field periodically. Mainly escorting my students (in slightly larger airplanes) who are headed there for maintenance or the paint shops. It is a really tight runway with trees at one end and a fence at the other. Pilots who don’t operate there will often take a CFI along for the first time. It’s not terribly short (3500’ IIRC), but it really looks challenging. The hangars are unusually close to the runway edge also which adds to the effect.

I can see how someone unfamiliar would attempt to land as short as possible. It’s difficult to describe, but the total effect of the field and surroundings makes it appear smaller than it really is.

I don’t know whether the pilot was a local, or new to the field. But the wife already on the ground filming leads to the conclusion of a resident of the field (who presumably would be less concerned about landing distance). Oddly enough in 25 years of instructing in the area, I’ve never *driven *to that field. So I can’t comment on the right-of-way or signage for cars.

My son instructs quite a bit in this area too. I’ll ask if he’s heard any more details on the local grapevine.

I believe he was a student pilot, which would account for a lack of experience and why his wife was recording.

Apparently so from this other report.

However I have to say that having read the witness tatements, a closer look at the aerial photos and Google Streetview shows there is what seems like a “stop” marking on the street pavement, but it is IMO quite dinky, faded and hard to notice – I’d expect a big, bold STOP spanning the road with a big bold broad stopline (it seems ALL markings on those roads and runways are dinky)


you are a car

 you can't even fly

It looks from the video that the pilot was coming in way too low. If he is a student pilot, mistakes are not unlikely. The airport has a 400-foot displaced threshold. It looks like he would have touched down on the no-landing area; but the appearance may be from telephoto compression, and he would have touched down farther down. He could also hold the plane up until it clears the threshold. He came close to the fence, and it looked like a poor approach. But there would not have been a crash if the SUV had not intruded.

Santa Monica Airport used to have aircraft parked on the opposite side of a road. There were stop signs where they crossed to get to the runway, and also signs reminding drivers that aircraft have the right of way.

It does seem that way, but remember how the video was taken; it was probably a zoom lens, which would foreshorten the distance and distort your angle of view.

Yokota Air Base in Japan has roads that cross the runway at either end (basically, the runway begins just past the road, with a few hundred feet of paved overrun between the road and the fence). There are signs warning to look out for low-flying airplanes, in addition to flashing red lights and loud-as-hell alarm bells that sound when a plane is on approach.

Since Yokota is home to a fleet of big four-engined military transport planes, it goes without saying that they get right of way.

While the pilot may have been flying lower than he should have been, that does not absolve the automobile drivers of any responsibility for not “looking both ways before crossing”. But then, I’m assuming that there is some kind of sign posted warning automobile drivers of this admittedly unusual road hazard.

Glad nobody got killed.

As I said in the post. (Only I used ‘compression’ instead of ‘distortion’ as I should have.)

Johnny, you’re a Man Among Men.

From you, I’ve learned valuable life lessons, like NOT shooting at NATO warships, and now I learn why my motor vehicle does NOT belong on aircraft runways.

I honestly don’t where I would be this day without your sage advice.