FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (WJLA) - A small plane that was attempting to land Monday at a general aviation airport in Charlottesville instead touched down in the parking lot of a nearby gas station and Wawa convenience store in Fredericksburg.
According to 33-year-old pilot, Jerome Orlando, dense fog forced him to find an alternative:
“I had plenty of fuel to land in Charlottesville -- I had some extra, but it was too cloudy to land there. So I went to another airport and then another, and eventually I ran out of fuel.”
As Orlando approached, he knew a crash could be deadly for someone on the ground as well as himself.
“I could see the tops of the taller buildings sticking above the clouds, so I just picked the widest open space," he said.
The Virginia State Police say the plane was attempting to land at the Shannon Airport, but ended up landing at the Wawa at about 5:50 a.m. The Wawa is located on Shannon Park Drive, which is near the airport.
Some who came to see what had happened offered praise for Orlando’s skill. He says he knows it could have ended very differently.
“It was pretty scary, but I tried to just relax and keep calm," he said.
There was some damage to the plane, but neither Orlando or anyone on the ground was injured.
Records indicate that the single-engine Piper is registered to Virginia Aircraft Rentals LLC, which is based in Rockingham County, Va.