LOS ANGELES (AP) — When a man battles Darth Vader, Nazis and other evildoers for work, what does he do for fun? Harrison Ford finds his answer in a pilot’s license and the freedom to take to the skies.
But with adventure comes risk, just as Han Solo, Indiana Jones and other daring movie characters Ford brought to life realized. On Thursday, one of Hollywood’s pre-eminent stars added a plane crash to an aviation record that includes both mishaps and service to others.
Ford, 72, who battled Hitler’s henchmen in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as dashing archaeologist Jones, was flying a World War II-era plane when it lost engine power shortly after taking off from Santa Monica Municipal Airport near Los Angeles. He crash-landed on a nearby golf course.
Bystanders who feared the aircraft might explode or catch fire pulled the actor from the wreckage, and doctors who happened to be playing golf gave him aid, Los Angeles fire officials said. An ambulance then took him to a hospital in fair to moderate condition.
“He had no other choice but to make an emergency landing, which he did safely,” Ford spokeswoman Ina Treciokas said. He is expected to make a full recovery, she said in a statement Thursday.
No one on the ground was hurt.
Ford’s son Ben tweeted Thursday evening from the hospital: “Dad is ok. Battered, but ok! He is every bit the man you would think he is. He is an incredibly strong man.” Ben Ford’s publicist, Rebecca Brooks, verified the tweet Friday in an email to The Associated Press.
Harrison Ford had a cut to his forehead and scraped arms, but it wasn’t clear what internal injuries he might have received, Los Angeles Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Butler said.
“He wasn’t a bloody mess. He was alert,” Butler said.
Ford took off at about 2:20 p.m., the NTSB said. A short time later he radioed he had engine failure and was making an immediate return, according to a recording posted by LiveATC.net.
The plane was flying at about 3,000 feet and hit a tree on the way down, according to witnesses and officials. The plane, a yellow 1942 Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR, had damage mostly confined to the front.
“I would say that this is an absolutely beautifully executed — what we would call — a forced or emergency landing, by an unbelievably well-trained pilot,” said Christian Fry of the Santa Monica Airport Association.
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.
Among the first people to reach Ford was a spinal surgeon hitting the links, who said he was stunned to discover the actor at the plane’s controls.
Dr. Sanjay Khurana said he saw the plane “drop like a rock” about 50 yards in front of him. He ran to the plane and found the pilot stunned and complaining of pain below his waist and with a deep gash in his scalp.
Khurana and other golfers pulled him from the wreckage, and the doctor assessed his condition. That’s Khurana realized who he was treating.
The airport’s single runway sits amid residential neighborhoods, and city leaders and many residents advocate closing it, citing noise and safety concerns. Other planes have crashed into homes, and four people died in September 2013 when their small jet veered into a hangar and caught fire.
Ford, who plays the swashbuckling Solo in his fourth “Star Wars” movie set for release in December, shuns attention to his private life but has been publicly effusive about his love of flying.
After arriving in his own plane at a 2001 fundraising gala for Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Ford said he was glad to help “engage kids in the romance and the mystery and the adventure of flying. … I know what it means.”
Ford got his pilot’s license in the 1990s and has made headlines, though he had never been significantly injured. In 2001, he rescued a missing Boy Scout with his helicopter. Nearly a year before, he rescued an ailing mountain climber in Wyoming.
In 2000, a gust of wind sent a six-seat plane Ford was piloting off a runway in Lincoln, Nebraska. He and his passenger were not injured.
He has also volunteered his services during forest-fire season, when helicopters are busy battling blazes.
The actor, who is married to Calista Flockhart of “Ally McBeal” fame, has said his rescues “had nothing to do with heroism.”
“It had to do with flying a helicopter. That’s all,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation could take up to a year before a final report. NTSB investigator Patrick Jones said the agency would look at “everything: weather, man, the machine.”
Ford last year wrapped “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was briefly suspended when Ford suffered a broken leg during shooting. He co-stars in a romance fantasy, “The Age of Adaline,” due out April 24.
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