ROANOKE — A sport utility vehicle driving along an airport road was suddenly hit Saturday morning... not by another car, but by a small plane.
Heather and Frank Laudo of Flower Mound were on their way to lunch at the Blue Hangar Cafe at Northwest Regional Airport near Roanoke when their car was clipped by the landing gear of an incoming aircraft.
"Just shatters and shatters of glass," Heather Laudo remembered. "I keep hearing the crash over and over in my head; I just can't get it out of my head,"
The Laudos are aviation enthusiasts, and they visit the airport a lot. The road to get there is adjacent to the runway.
"We go out there a lot," Frank said. "We're used to the whole protocol of how to wait for the runway and everything like that."
But on Saturday, even following the rules wasn't enough. They were hit.
"I knew it was a plane immediately, because when I looked to the left, I saw him and he couldn't have been more than 10 feet away," Frank said. "I thought, 'Wow, he's a little low.'"
The single-engine Cessna was operated by William Davis, a student pilot returning from a solo cross-country flight to Possum Kingdom Lake.
"We couldn't see anything at all, and then... all of a sudden... equipment was falling into the car," Heather said.
It was the plane's landing gear.
"There was blood everywhere... glass everywhere," Heather said.
Frank kept control of the SUV, maneuvering it to the side of the road. Heather called 911.
"I said, 'We've just been hit by an airplane,' and she said, 'I'm sorry, you'll have to say that again. I thought you said you'd just been hit by an airplane.' I said, 'Yes, we were just hit by an airplane! Please come now!'"
With his landing gear sheared off, Davis safely landed the plane on its belly as onlookers ran to help.
"As soon as everybody started running up to us, I was asking, 'Is everybody OK on the plane?' And they said, 'Yes, he walked away from it,'" Frank Laudo said.
Despite cuts, scrapes and a few skull staples, he believes their lives were saved only by a matter of a few fortunate inches.
"In the scheme of things, everybody is OK, and we count ourselves very, very lucky," he said.
The FAA is investigating Saturday's crash, the fourth incident with ties to Northwest Regional Airport in the last six weeks.
On September 22, two men were killed when their plane went down soon after takeoff. The pilot, Chris Pratt, wanted to freshen up his skills with an instructor.
On October 6, a plane carrying a Southlake family vanished after taking off from the airport. It crashed in Van Zandt County, killing a Southlake doctor, his two sons, and their uncle.
Five days later, on October 11, a plane hit a fence during takeoff, flipping over. The pilot walked away.