Actor Harrison Ford is listed in ‘Fair to Moderate’ condition at a Los Angeles area hospital following a plane crash yesterday afternoon. Ford reportedly broke his pelvis and ankle and had numerous bruises, cuts and abrasions.
The National Transportation Safety Board has begun its investigation, and already has several clues to the cause of the crash.
With the sounds overhead of planes taking off and landing at Santa Monica Municipal Airport, and the wreckage of Harrison Ford’s 1942 Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR on the Penmar Golf Course behind him, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Patrick Jones said the fact that Ford survived his harrowing crash landing was reason enough for celebration.
“Anytime that a human being can survive an accident involving an airplane, it’s a good day,” he told reporters.
Jones said the inquiry into the “Indiana Jones” actor’s Thursday plane crash had just begun.
“I’m not going to jump to any conclusions at this point, we’re going to wait for the evidence to come out,” he said.
“This is an 1942 vintage aircraft,” he added. “A lot of it is old school mechanical. We’ll see what it is. We’ll look at everything.”
Jones said the NTSB had not yet spoken with Ford, who is still recuperating from his injuries at a nearby hospital.
“There will be an attempt to talk to the pilot, because we definitely want to know what he knows,” he said. “When that happens depends.”
He also said he did not know if Ford had been tested for drugs or alcohol.
Eyewitnesses reported the plane was in serious trouble:
Ford took off from Santa Monica Municipal Airport at around 2 p.m. Pacific Time. About 20 minutes later, Ford, 72, told the airport’s tower that he was having engine failure and was making an “immediate return.” The plane crashed at Penmar Golf Course, about a quarter-mile short of the airport runway, soon afterward.
Ford was about a half-mile west of the airport and flying at 3,000 feet when he told air traffic controllers that his engine failed, interim Santa Monica City Manager Elaine Polachek said in an email to city officials. She also said that some witnesses reported that the plane hit a tree on its way down.
“Immediately you could see the engine started to sputter and just cut out, and he banked sharply to the left,” said Jeff Kuprycz, who was golfing when he saw the plane taking off. “He ended up crashing around the eighth hole.”
Kuprycz estimated the plane was about 200 feet overhead when it plunged to the ground.
“There was no explosion or anything. It just sounded like a car hitting the ground or a tree or something. Like that one little bang, and that was it,” Kuprycz said.
Charlie Thomson, a flight instructor at the airport who saw Ford take off, said engine failure like Ford’s does not make the plane harder to maneuver. “It just means you have to go down,” he said.
Ford is being praised for crashing on the golf course, avoiding several residences along his flight path. Witnesses say he hit a tree on his way down and prevented the plane from going nose first into the ground. The plane crashed a quarter mile short of the runway.
This isn’t the first brush with death for the actor. In 1999, he was learning to fly a helicopter when the aircraft lost power and made a hard landing. Ford and his instructor were unhurt but the helicopter was severely damaged.
Then, a year later, bad weather forced down his six seat Beechcraft plane, which clipped the runway causing major damage to the plane. There were no injuries in that crash either.