A preliminary federal report on Harrison Ford’s plane crash last week in Santa Monica confirms that the actor’s World War II-era plane lost power, forcing him to try to land the aircraft.
The preliminary report, released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday, says the Ryan PT-22 Recruit “sustained substantial damage following a loss of engine power and subsequent forced landing” after taking off from Santa Monica airport Thursday.
Shortly after takeoff, Ford “advised of an engine failure and requested an immediate return to the airport,” the report states. Ford turned the aircraft left to try to make it back to the airport but could only glide to Venice’s Penmar Golf Course about 800 feet southwest of the airport runway.
The plane’s wing hit a tree as it glided in and crashed, the report states.
“It felt like an earthquake,” said Sanjay Khurana, who was playing golf on the course at the time of the crash. The spinal surgeon was among the first to rush to Ford’s plane and pull the experienced pilot from the wreckage.
Ford was stunned and his face and body were covered in blood, Khurana said. After a few moments Ford came to.
Investigators will be examining the 1942 vintage plane, its engine, flight controls and records. It could take as long as a year for the final accident report.
According to Santa Monica flight instructor Jeff Martin, Ford had few options and made the right choice when he picked the golf course, which pilots know can be used for emergencies especially during takeoffs, when the vast majority of engine failures occur.
Martin, who has been flying for 20 years, said there are three choices in Santa Monica for pilots facing a life-and-death situation: Lincoln Boulevard, the beach and Penmar.
Pilots contend that the golf course is the most ideal and makes Santa Monica safer than some other local airports that don't have ample open space nearby.
Ford "did the best thing he could've done," Martin said, "and he did the thing I've feared having to do every time I depart from there in a single-engine airplane."
Based on the number of accidents per 100,000 takeoffs and landings, Santa Monica ranks in the middle of the 11 busiest general aviation airports with control towers in Los Angeles, Orange County and Riverside counties.
"We are certainly hoping that Harrison Ford will have a full recovery," said Martin Rubin, president of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution. "But this is the second crash in Penmar over the years. This certainly raises safety concerns. Santa Monica is unique in the nation because it has dense neighborhoods next to an airport."
Ford's aviation hobby has put him in danger before. In 1999, Ford was riding in a helicopter with his flight instructor when it crashed into a Ventura County riverbed. The "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" actor walked away unscathed.
Ford has been recovering from a broken leg since June. While filming "Star Wars: Episode VII" last summer, the veteran actor broke his left leg broke in an accident involving the door of the film franchise's famed Millennium Falcon spaceship. The injury required him to have surgery and go through rehab, causing a two-week hiatus in filming during August.
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