Actor Harrison Ford’s decision to crash-land his vintage airplane on a Los Angeles, CA golf course Thursday may have saved lives, according to witnesses and a representative for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Charlie Thompson, An airport flight instructor who witnessed Ford’s takeoff, told NBC Los Angeles that it was likely no coincidence that Ford ended up on the open golf course and not in the highly populated surrounding area.
“When you have an engine failure as a pilot you are taught the number one priority is the safety of the people on the ground,” Thompson told the local affiliate. “The golf course is the place where you could land the safest for the local community and making sure he didn’t endanger the people in the local area.”
The Santa Monica Airport Association’s Christian Fry described the landing as “beautifully executed,” by an “unbelievably well-trained pilot.”
Eddie Agugulia, who observed the events as he played Penmar golf course, told NBC News: “Looking at where he crashed and how the plane went down, I’m sure there was a moment where he said, ‘I’m not going to risk lives; whatever happens, happens. It’s going to be just me.”
Agugulia insisted that Ford “risked life and limb by putting it down on the golf course instead of trying to go further to try to get back to the airport… another 25 to 30 yards and … I don’t want to think about it. He saved several lives.”
A video obtained by the AP and posted to YouTube shows the plane silently gliding moments before it impacted the ground, which supports Ford’s account that the aircraft had suffered from engine failure:
The Penmar golf course is located in a densely populated neighborhood, near a school, and just blocks from Santa Monica Airport, where Ford had departed just moments before the crash, at around 2:20p.m. local time.
One NTSB investigator told NBC Friday morning: “When you take off from an airport… and you need to land an aircraft, you have to pick the best posts where you are… and apparently these are the best spots.”
During a radio message to air traffic control, Ford requested a return to the airport citing engine failure just moments before his WW2 era plane went down. Fortuitously, two doctors who had been playing golf on the course helped Ford escape the mangled wreckage.
Ford’s son Ben Tweeted Thursday evening to let the world know his dad was okay:
At 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.
— Chef Ben Ford (@ChefBenFord) March 6, 2015