Actor Harrison Ford has suffered serious, but not life-threatening injuries after crash-landing his vintage plane on a golf course after losing engine power.
The star of the Indiana Jones and Star Wars films used his extensive piloting skills to “beautifully” bring down the plane on the course in Los Angeles and avoid nearby homes.
It was the latest and most serious in a series of crashes and close calls for the 72-year-old action-adventure A-lister, who like his Star Wars alter-ego Han Solo has a taste for aerial thrills.
The star was helped by golfers who saw the plane come down about a quarter-mile short of the runway at Santa Monica Municipal Airport, and was taken to hospital, fully conscious and breathing.
Fire officials would not confirm the pilot’s identity. However, an email from interim Santa Monica city manager Elaine Polachek sent to city officials said the plane was flown by Ford.
According to the email, Ford was about half a mile west of the airport and flying at 3,000ft when he told air traffic controllers that his engine had failed.
Ford’s plane “apparently hit a tree on the way down,” and in addition to a cut forehead Ford may have broken his leg, the email said.
The plane, a yellow 1942 Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR with stars on its wings, was upright and mostly intact after the crash. No-one on the ground was hurt.
Christian Fry of the Santa Monica Airport Association said: “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.”
The airport’s single runway sits amid residential neighbourhoods in the city of more than 90,000 on the Pacific Ocean.
City leaders and many residents advocate closing the airport, citing noise and safety concerns. Other planes taking off or landing there have crashed into homes, and in September 2013 four people died when their small jet veered into a hangar and caught fire.
Ford, who keeps his plane at the airport, took off at 2pm (10pm GMT). About 20 minutes later, he told the tower he had “engine failure” and was making an “immediate return,” according to a recording posted by the website LiveATC.net.
He came down on a fairway of Penmar golf course.
“Immediately you could see the engine started to sputter and just cut out, and he banked sharply to the left,” said Jeff Kuprycz, who was golfing when he saw the plane taking off.
“He ended up crashing around the eighth hole.”
Mr Kuprycz estimated the plane was about 200ft overhead when it plunged to the ground.
“There was no explosion or anything. It just sounded like a car hitting the ground or a tree or something. Like that one little bang, and that was it,” Mr Kuprycz said.
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 manoeuvre. “It just means you have to go down,” he said.
Ford is cast to play the swashbuckling Solo in his fourth Star Wars movie, set for release in December. The original Star Wars in 1977 made Ford an overnight star who later played whip-slinging archaeologist Indiana Jones in four hugely popular movies.
Shooting on Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shut down for several weeks last July after Ford broke his leg during filming at the Pinewood Studios outside London.
The accident involved the spacecraft door of the Millennium Falcon, which makes a return in the highly anticipated film.
Ford qualified for his pilot’s licence in the late 1980s and has made headlines with his flying before, though he had never been significantly injured doing it. In 2001, he rescued a missing Boy Scout with his helicopter. Nearly a year before, he rescued an ailing mountain climber in Jackson, Wyoming.
In 2000 in Lincoln, Nebraska, a gust of wind sent a six-seat plane Ford was piloting off the runway. He and his passenger were not injured.
He has also volunteered his services during forest-fire season, when rescue helicopters are busy fighting blazes.