It was his experience piloting planes which likely saved the life of Harrison Ford on Thursday. The respected actor was flying solo in his single-engine, World War II-era plane near Santa Monica in Southern California when the engine failed, forcing him to make an emergency landing on a golf course.
Despite the hard landing, Ford, 72, is expected to recover. Although he remained in the hospital on Friday, his son, Ben Ford, posted to Twitter to say that his father was “battered but OK.”
Shortly after taking off, Ford made an emergency call to Santa Monica Municipal Airport to report an engine failure, and then directed his sinking plane back toward a runway there. Although air traffic controllers at the airport gave him permission to land, the failing aircraft would not make it. According to NTSB spokesperson Patrick Jones, the actor’s plane clipped the top of a tree before dropping down and grazing the Penmar Golf Course, located directly across from the airport. The plane came to a stop mere feet from the street.
An emergency crew responding to the site gave first aid to the actor before transporting him via ambulance to a hospital. An official with the fire department said that Ford was conscious and alert at the scene. KABC spoke with a witness at the scene who reported that Ford had a large “head wound” and “expressed that he was in pain.” Witnesses to the crash then helped the Indiana Jones star get out of the plane to await first responders.
Although authorities would not identify the pilot as Ford, both his son and his publicist, Ina Treciokas, did. Treciokas said of her client, “The injuries sustained are not life threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
Paparazzi and local residents are accustomed to seeing Ford’s distinctive plane; a silver and bright yellow Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR. The aircraft, with a number 50 written on its side and an open-air dual cockpit, was locally known to be the actor’s.
Jones said that the wreckage of the plane, its red nose crushed and pointed at the ground, was scheduled to be moved on Friday. The plane will be transported to an airplane hangar located nearby where it can be further inspected as part of the investigation into the crash.
Speaking with CNN, pilot Tom Haines said that he had flown with Ford in the past and that the actor was a “very skilled pilot.” Haines added that Ford was very conscious of aircraft safety precautions and kept up to date with the training for all of his planes.
To CNN, Jones said that there are about 2,000 plane crashes each year, but skilled pilots are usually able to pilot a disabled plane to the ground safely, without incurring or causing serious injuries. In fact, he says, it’s quite normal for pilots with experience. Referring to Ford, he said “this pilot is an experienced pilot.”
Not only does Ford have experience flying planes, but he has also been through his share of harrowing landings. While flying with a flight instructor in 1999, the actor was forced to make an emergency landing of a helicopter. It is reported that in Lincoln, Neb., in 2000, he was landing a plane when it slid off the runway. Mary Schiavo, aviation analyst with CNN, believes that more than likely it was the age of the plane which contributed to the crash.
Among the celebrities wishing Ford well was Peter Mayhew, who played his co-pilot Chewbacca in Star Wars. Mayhew tweeted, “Here’s hoping my buddy comes away with just another scar to match his crooked smile.”
By Jennifer Pfalz
Image by jyw104 – Flickr License