True to the heroes he plays on the big screen, a calm and collected Harrison Ford glided his airplane into a crash landing on a California golf course on Thursday afternoon.
Moments before the crash, in audio of his conversation with air traffic control, an unemotional Ford can be heard asking for an emergency landing because his engine had failed over Venice.
The 72-year-old actor, who has been a licensed pilot for nearly two decades, said he was not going to be able to make the runway at Santa Monica Airport, so picked a long green at the nearby Penmar golf course to land out of the way of the congested neighborhood.
Ford saved lives by his heroic swerving of the plane away from people’s homes, witnesses said.
Eddie Aguglia, who was playing golf at the time, told NBC: ‘Looking at where he crashed and how the plane went down, I’m sure there was a moment where he said, ”I’m not going to risk lives, whatever happens, happens. It’s going to be just me.”’
After plunging 3,000ft and hitting a tree on the way down, Ford was rushed from the scene bleeding heavily from a head wound and suffering a broken ankle and pelvis.
His injuries were described only as ‘moderate’ and he is expected to make a full recovery.
‘At the hospital. Dad is ok. Battered, but ok! He is every bit the man you would think he is. He is an incredibly strong man,’ his son Ben Ford tweeted just two hours after the crash. ‘Thank you all for your thoughts and good vibes for my dad.’
Ford’s publicist Ina Treciokas said on Thursday that the actor had no other choice but to make an emergency landing.
In a statement, she said: ‘Harrison was flying a WW2 vintage plane today which stalled upon takeoff. He had no other choice but to make an emergency landing, which he did safely.
‘He was banged up and is in the hospital receiving medical care.’
She added his injuries ‘are not life threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery’.
The fact that Ford escaped the crash with just a few injuries is not surprising to those who have flown with him.
Ford first started flying in the 1960s, but didn’t have the money or time for regular lessons until later in life – becoming a licensed pilot in 1996.
‘Harrison’s been a great pilot. You can see by the fact that he survived this forced landing that he is a skilled aviator,’ Paul Mitton, who produced a documentary about Ford’s love of flying, told CNN.
‘Just looking at the crash site, you see the trees nearby there’s a tree not too far behind the aircraft.
‘Had the wing clipped that, the airplane could have spun around, he could have been ejected, he could have ended up upside down. That would have been bad,’ Mitton added.
Aviation expert Rick Dake told People that Ford’s landing was amazing considering the unforgiving nature of the World War II-era plane.
‘Everything he did was perfect,’ Dake, of Aviation Consulting Experts, told People.
He says less-experienced pilots training on the plane during World War II would often crash because the plane tended to flip when the engine fails.
‘That alone is testament to the great ability Harrison Ford had. He made a 180-degree turn with the engine seizing up on him. He almost made it to the runway,’ Dake said.
‘He was able to keep that plane away from the houses and land it with the least impact on the community. That was the best place he could have landed it.
‘He was 100 per cent doing exactly what an excellent aviator would do.’
Witness Ryan Harris called the landing a ‘masterful feat of airmanship’ in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
‘There are about eight trees nearby, and he put it down without hitting any of them,’ Harris said.
The crash happened just before 2.30pm (PT), shortly after Ford took off from Santa Monica Airport alone in the two-seater vintage airplane.
After take-off Ford called back to to the air traffic control tower, saying his engine had unexpectedly died and he needed clearance to land.
The air traffic controllers gave Ford permission to return to the runway – but the actor’s plane couldn’t make the journey. Instead he glided the plane down onto a green at the local golf course.
One witness, who was golfing at the time, said she watched the small plane perform a ‘nose dive straight on the 8th hole tee box.’
The woman, who says she was one of the first people to rush towards the scene, told TMZ that ‘four or five removed the pilot from the plane.
‘They were concerned it would catch on fire,’ she told TMZ.
She added the actor ‘was conscious, talking a little’ but had a deep gash on his head.
‘A swath of his skin was missing,’ she said. ‘There was blood dripping down his face.’
Twitter user Alex Miller posted that his mother was golfing on the hole where Ford crashed and rushed to aide the actor who ‘seemed ok’.
Golf course employee Howard Tabe told NBC News: ‘There was blood all over his face. … Two very fine doctors were treating him, taking good care of him. I helped put a blanket under his hip.’
Spine surgeon Sanjay Khurana was on the seventh hole of the golf course when Ford’s plane clipped a tree.
He immediately dropped his clubs and ran to help. With the help of fellow golfers, he pulled the actor from the wreckage after noticing fuel leaking from the plane.
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