Earlier this week, Harrison Ford had a close call with a Boeing 737 at John Wayne airport in southern California, and the FAA is investigating the matter.
On Monday, the Han Solo actor was coming in for a landing at the John Wayne airport, and air traffic controllers sent Ford the instructions for landing. He read them back as they were sent, but something went awry. Instead of landing on the runway, Ford instead ended up setting down on a taxiway next to the authorized landing strip.
What makes this significant is that a Boeing 737, fully fueled and carrying 116 people, including crew, was sitting on that taxiway. Fortunately, Ford was able to lift up and over the aircraft, successfully setting down with no further incident. During the incident, NBC News reports Harrison Ford asked the controller “Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?”
So was Ford at fault for the near accident?
First of all, it is clear that, regardless of intent, Harrison violated FAA safety regulations by putting down on the taxiway instead of the runway. As such, the FAA is looking into what sort of disciplinary actions may be taken against the famous pilot. Sanctions could range anywhere from administrative punishment requiring retraining to a letter of suspension to a full revoking of Ford’s pilot’s license.
Another thing to keep in mind is the model of plane Ford was flying. The Indiana Jones actor is a collector of vintage planes, and the one he was piloting the day of the incident requires the pilot to keep the plane more nose up during the landing than most planes, which may have prevented Ford from noticing the landing error.
According to the LA Times, Kurt Knepper, an aviation attorney, claimed, “This is an anomaly for John Wayne, and it is an anomaly for an experienced pilot like Mr. Ford, I am sure.”
Another question of concern is whether or not Harrison Ford was medically fit for flight. The actor is 74 years old, a decent age to be flying aircraft solo. However, the actor successfully passed a pilot’s medical exam just last month, so it is unlikely the incident was a result of Ford’s age.
Ford has been involved in other aircraft crashes over his time as an aviator. One of the most recent occurred just a couple of years ago when Ford crashed his biplane into a golf course near the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. The actor was seriously injured in the crash, suffering a number of broken bones and requiring surgery to return to full health.
Investigators looking into the incident found that a faulty carburetor was likely responsible for the plane’s engine giving out. The local airport expressed support for the actor, claiming he had executed the emergency landing about as perfectly as possible, especially considering the type of plane Ford was flying.
In 1999, during a helicopter training session, Ford was forced to crash land the chopper. Another incident in 2000 occurred when a sudden wind shear while landing forced Ford’s craft to the ground, damaging the plane but leaving Ford and his passengers unharmed.
Another thing to keep in mind is Ford’s history as a successful pilot. Also in 2000, Ford used his helicopter to rescue a stranded hiker and fly them to a nearby hospital for needed treatment. Ford has also declared a Living Legend of Aviation by the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy. He has also served as a chairman for a youth aviation program.
What sanctions the FAA may impose on Harrison Ford at the end of their investigation are yet to be determined.
What are your thoughts on Harrison Ford’s most recent near accident? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images]