Harrison Ford Update: Initial Findings Indicate Plane Lost Power Prior To Crash

It’s official: Harrison Ford was not to blame for the March 5 crash of his World War II-era plane, according to an update from a National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation. The cause of the crash was engine failure.

The preliminary report echoed the real-time reports from Ford himself, as the actor brought the plane down for an emergency landing on the eighth fairway of the Penmar Golf Course in Venice, Calif., Reuters reported.

Shortly after takeoff, Ford radioed Santa Monica air traffic controllers to report engine failure. Harrison asked for an emergency return to the airport, then turned left to head back; that’s when the power went out, the plane descended and clipped a treetop on its way down, the LA Times reported. Harrison landed 800 feet from the approach end of a runway, according to the NTSB update.

Ford, 72, was pretty banged up, but his 1942 Ryan PT-22 Recruit is even worse. The NTSB’s update revealed that it suffered “substantial damage,” mostly to the wings and fuselage.

The NTSB investigation will continue, meaning its Tuesday update is just preliminary and could change. The agency plans to inspect the plane itself, its engine, flight controls and records. This could take a year.

As for an update on Ford’s injuries, the actor was still in the hospital as of Monday, in fair to moderate condition, the International Business Times reported. Harrison suffered a broken pelvis and ankle, cuts and bruises, and is expected to recover. But his wife, actress Calista Flockhart, may have issued the biggest blow – she may have prohibited Ford from flying again, or so said the rumor mill.

But Harrison, whose been flying since 2002, was praised by aviation experts for his emergency landing, rough as it was. That he stayed in control, even after it lost power, and guided it safely to the golf course was quite a feat, the Times added.

Regardless, local residents are using Ford’s crash to bolster their efforts to close the Santa Monica Airport. There are homes only a few hundred feet from its runway, and airport opponents have repeatedly complained about noise and air pollution. They’ve also complained about the landing of “private jets with fast landing speeds,” added the Times.

Over the years, all efforts to shut the airport down have failed, however. The Federal Aviation Administration asserts that it’s safe and despite opponents’ efforts, can’t be closed due to agreements between it and the U.S. government, which date to 1948. The federal courts have also stepped in to keep the city from banning private jets; its latest lawsuit was blocked.

The crash of Harrison Ford’s private plane, however, has highlighted this longstanding debate, only adding fuel to the fire. Whether the NTSB’s update will assuage complaints remains to be seen.

[Photo Courtesy Rich Polk/Getty Images]