Like a daring climax to one of his hit movies, Harrison Ford and his flight instructor walked away from a helicopter crash this weekend in a dry riverbed after reportedly taking off from Van Nuys Airport, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said.
The accident took place about 11:15 a.m. Saturday when the Bell 206 JetRanger helicopter carrying Ford and the unidentified instructor went down near Lake Piru about 45 miles northwest of Los Angeles, FAA Operations Officer Diana Joubert said.
After the helicopter took off from Van Nuys, it headed to the Ventura County site, where it was practicing auto rotations when the accident occurred, Joubert said.
Auto rotation is an emergency landing procedure that simulates engine failure. In the technique, the pilot disengages the main rotor blades from the engine. This helps the blades rotate on their own as the aircraft descends, greatly reducing the speed of the fall.
Joubert said it was not clear who was at the controls when the helicopter fell to the ground. But she said the craft sustained heavy damage after coming to rest on its left side.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.
Ford has appeared in such cinematic blockbusters as both the original “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” trilogies and “Air Force One.” His two latest movies, “Six Days, Seven Nights” and the current “Random Hearts,” involve plane crashes.
Ventura County Fire Capt. Gary Rake of the Piru station said the Lake Piru area is attractive for aerobatic and training flights because few people live there.
Federal requirements forbid pilots from practicing such maneuvers over populated areas, he said.
Rake said he can’t remember any previous crashes in the area: “I’ve been on the department 30 years and I’m green on that one.”
He said he was unaware of Ford’s rough landing Saturday morning. “They didn’t go down in our area and generate an emergency call,” he said.
Preliminary reports show that the JetRanger was built in 1998 and registered to MG Aviation Inc. of Teterboro, N. J. Records show that the aircraft was registered to the company in March 1998.
Times Community News reporter Tony Lystra contributed to this story.